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John Caddy
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John Caddy's
Morning Earth Poems
October 2002



On this sunny rain-pebbled day
across warm blacktop
run the woolly bears, legs
churning, undulating fur
as they race from south to north
across the trafficked road
until they curl within my palm.


One of the many mysteries: Why do the woolly bears always cross the road from south to north? Why are they seized en masse with this perilous need? We cannot know. And who cares? My hand cares, as it has these 60-odd years.



Kingfisher peers down his black beak
from a high dead branch,
hoping for a silver minnow.
But a breeze is up with the dawn
and sweeps silver across water.
He's flown all night and early fishing.

As the breeze calms, the kingfisher
shifts one foot, cocks his raggedy crest,
dives with a small splash and rises
in sparks, flying with a silver beak.
Back on the branch,
he shifts the bright fish
to swallow headfirst,
his white collar ringing with sun.


With the thud of shotguns in the distance teaching hungry ducks not to eat this morning, it's good to see one migrant succeeding. In beauty.



Dawn arrows mark the pond,
arrows of ducks serene,
small arrows of sailing leaves,
one smooth arrow from a dark wet head
uplifted to colder air.
Wood ducks spot me now
and burst up off the water,
cry their high alarms in flight.
The muskrat dives.
Rippling rippling out,
Circles mark the pond.


Arrows and circles. So much comes down to shapes repeated without end. Arrows become circles. Life splashes on.



Three deer browse the yard in daylight.
They drift from garden to brush,
a doe and twin fawns almost grown.
The good mother has taught
her daughter well; the little doe
cocks her ears in two directions,
stares my way, her nervous ears
edged with dark. The little buck feeds boldly.
On his skull grow two round bumps,
golden furred, his blood first arush with rut.
Soon his antlers will emerge in velvet,
and grow longer, spiked,
and with the next moon
this little buck will snort and scrape
black hooves against the earth
and flare his nostrils for the scent of doe.


Every being tells an endless story that at times we get to overhear. For some of the hoofed cousins, autumn is the spring. And perhaps all of us live the same story.



Rain driving from the north abruptly
plasters my window
with a quartet of maple leaves.
Only one is red and beautiful, the rest
untimely torn. Two split at the spine.
When they were young
insects ate tiny holes.
Greens gone, sugars
sucked into the roots,
they are as abandoned
as skin cells drifting
from your cheek.
Pebbles of cold rain
roll down the glass and blur.
We are about to pay our dues.


Looking out the window these days is apt to lift the neck hairs. Inches of cold rain are dispiriting. Monday, Monday…



In the rain I hear a frog's
long ratcheting croak.
It is air warbling through
organic hollows, unwarmed
by amphibian flesh, and gone
traveling through wind
and rain to enter my warm ear’s
shell and tap my drum.
I shiver for this elder
singer in the cold, but
it is my cold, not his I fear.
He croaks again.
I surrender to my ear.


Strange encounters in the crepuscular dark before dawn. It is a time of stirring and tension, this edge between dark and day, this edge between seasons.



There is sun today and sky
enough to see leaves turned
golds and reds, the tapestry
the weaver dreams.

Her yarns are circle-spun,
the fibers are what falls away,
the fibers made of yesterdays.
Her loom is long cold nights
and shorter suns, each leaf a life once green
transformed by cyanins and carotenes

.The tapestry the weaver dreams
is red of maple, red of oak,
gold of aspen, gold of birch,
red of sumac at the base
released from greens
that mask the weave
I see today in sun
against the moving sky.


What a blessing is bright sun after days of soaking rain. How little (!) it takes to restore sanity and stop the monotone grumbling. Transformation is easy to accept accompanied by such colors.



A dead opossum on the roadside
tangles dingy gray and white.
Her jaws stretch in the rictus of a scream.
This small scavenger, quiet in life,
would relish her own death-smell if she could.
A half mile on, a second possum sprawls,
jaws wide in the self-same scream.
The rushing sound that follows me
is only leaves in rising wind.


We never know what will shiver us. Opossum is odd enough in life, and virtually mute.



From the vernal pool where yellow leaves
and red drift down to water,
first one spring peeper calls "I'm here,"
then a second. Back and forth they peep
until a chorus frog slowly
ratchets up his scale
as if to say, "Hey, I'm trying to sleep."


On a sunny autumn day, it's wonderfully strange to hear spring peepers pierce the air. Forgive my anthropomorphic doggerel, but the moment was delicious.



Tiger salamander on the road,
traveling perhaps to softer digging-in
for winter with his stick legs,
but when I pick him up, dry and cold
next to my mammal furnace,
his small jet beads see no
part of great lumbering me
who holds old amphibian
loosely in my hand, who carries him
across the road and sets him down in leaves
where with my borrowed heat
he scrambles underneath
where he will release my heat to earth.
In a half hour I still feel
where he pulled warm from out my palm.


Lives all borrow energy and swap it around; life is a grand energy exchange. Most exchanges are less benign; but a few are loans.



In another land we glimpsed a whole
clutch of barn owls, lined up
along a high wall, caught
in car lights. One flew before the car:
two angled eyes,
a flash of white disc face,
and four throats gasped.


What an honor to see barn owls. They are a glimpse into another world, truly other. They live wherever there are mice and farm buildings and open land to hunt. Their faces are a heart.



Acorns, acorns, rolling down the driveway,
Acorns, acorns, falling from the oak trees,
Acorns, acorns, plopping through the red leaves,
Acorn, acorn, knocking on my bald spot

Morning, paper, out to get the paper,
Rolling, sliding, rolling on the acorns
Falling, falling, dropping from the oak trees,
Windmills, wheelies, rolling down the driveway
Trying, trying, not to fall on acorns,
not to fall like acorns rolling down the driveway,
not to sprawl in pratfall.


Apologies to Credence Clearwater and Proud Mary. A bumper crop from both red and white oaks. Raccoons are building up acorn fat for the long sleep. Wild turkeys will have a fine winter kicking down through snow for acorns, acorns…



Today beauty falls in golden leaves
that let go one by one from maple trees.
In stiff cold air they drop straight swaying down
and leave a circle drift around each trunk,
growing deep and deep with beauty,
while above, the dark of branch and twig
reveal the many ways they strive toward light.


The fall of leaves is a wistful beauty astonishing in its variations. Frost said, "Nothing gold can stay," but that's only for the short term. In fact, the deep roots pull minerals out of subsoil, which become part of the leaves. The leaves fall to return to the earth, rot in, and replenish the topsoil. The gold returns. The circle is endless, unless it's paved.



In the litter of the leaves
something sparkles.
It is the mica wing
from a dragonfly,
it is chitin
miraculously clear,
intricately veined where
the new morph pumped
this wing unfolded
from where it hid
crumpled underwater
sealed beneath its larval husk.
How it sparkles, how
it catches rainbows
even when its flight has failed.


This is the season when endings can be lovely,
as Samhain draws near.



It is the other side of light.
You used to play with it, but when
your shadow is no fun,
turn it inside out.
Eat your shadow,
make it feed you.
Let it course throughout you.
Chew it up, turn it,
spit it out--as song, as laugh ,
as quickstep turns across a room--
for the journey to light
moves through your own flesh.


Monday mornings are strange. It is the season of turning, when lives turn inward, when yesterday's coat of snow reminds us of the necessities of transformation.



Bushes are bent aching
low to ground
by thick wet snow
mounds on wan leaves
not quite colored yet for fall.
The fuzzy tops of goldenrods
and asters wear sloppy caps
while every branch
wears a thick white line.
Narrowed spruces look resigned.
We are out of time.


We are bewildered here. What happened to Fall? Acceptance is difficult when you've lost a month of the best season.



Shallow ponds are skimmed with morning ice,
but ours is deep and ripples darkly in north wind
until noon, when sun finds cracks in gray
and ripples sparkle in a day newmade.
As I shiver up the road, snow crackles,
but shafts of sunlight glory russet oaks.
Then, across the blacktop, a wooly bear!
Lickety split, lickety split, wooly bear racing
cold and ice, and as I lift it from harm's way,
I doff my cap, entirely warmed.


How tough we little creatures are. This caterpillar shrugs off twenty degrees and thick days of snow to strive for its completion. I am honored to share the earth, and glad to deny this life to pickup tires. How other lives take us out of ourselves.



The huge bird brushes turning leaves
as she lifts from marsh-edge trees
beating strong black wings,
primaries spread like fingers wide,
white head, white tail fanned,
she arrives above my craning eyes
and stays, or seems to stay.
I see that great gold beak from below
I see her turn her head to look down.
She flies ahead a bit, still with me,
and I am ready to lurch to land's end
if she will lead, but off she tilts then on a wind,
and I am left tangled on my own road.


I love these cryptic encounters, wild and brief. The eagle was no doubt curious about my limp and cane--whether I was about to become tasty carrion-- but I am honored by her attentions no matter the cause. What better way to share my energy? I am left goosebumped but warm.



Earthworms push deeper now, squeeze
through fissures in the soil, now
toads with squeezed eyes
spade down with hind clawed legs
with old cold-blooded strength, then
with front legs pull the loose soil up,
pack it tight above their heads
to evade the crystals
frost is reaching down,
crystal filaments like
dendrites growing down
with a message burned in ice.

Toads slumber, but ice is a wakeup call. In a harsh northern winter they will move five feet down. What a simple, excellent strategy, if you have the strength and don't mind digging when you're half asleep.



Grackles flock up now, begin
to weave sky with skeins of black
that stretch and sway like
water weeds in the mouth of a stream,

for sky and water are fluids
that shape all that must move
toward light, toward grace,
toward food, simplify the shape
of all that move and flow,

and the black grackle waxes
smooth as the iridescence that
excites its feathers, smoothed

as the minnow is smoothed
by the clarity it moves within.
So the flock wheels across sky as one
streaming being with a thousand wings.


The essence seems to be flow, and how it shapes us, how it takes the edges off. We all end up more ready to fly.



From the maple almost bare
I watch a leaf let go,
cross the window as
it falters down the air,
into my sudden heat
behind exhausted glass,
to join again.


Trust earth to offer us the images we need to begin to heal from loss. The leaf prepares the soil.



Her wings tuck under her orange half dome
as the ladybird appears on my wrist.
Black spots like a Jack-o'-Lantern's eyes
uncandled with fire, but that's a lie.
She's outside at twenty degrees
with fire enough to fly against
north wind and drear sky,
this pumpkinseed life
who burns orange as coals
and refuses to die,
even for Dia de los Muertos.


Planting bulbs during a lost autumn, in pellet snow and cold, is redeemed by a ladybird beetle whose children are just fine.

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