Morning Earth Poems
A game of nine ravens
unfolds on the rim of a dry wash
where thermals add to pleasure.
Just as we see them, two fly over the rise.
One flips over and in flight
the two lock toes and let go.
The rest sway up in applause,
criss-crossing paths in play.
Along a hundred yard rim of the wash
the game goes on as pairs and trios
spin off in astonishing play.
They see us, but today allow other eyes.
Tandem flight is the game
sharing slipstreams and dares.
In all this, silence the rule, then
three split off and gyre high, stay
apart and with one distant ‘cronk’
are lost within blue.
Near Chaco Canyon the magic ran wild. Ravens were the most giving atavars. They are the most accomplished fliers, and clowns, in the sky.
I walk high among old red stones
impossibly carved by water &
seasons & wind for stacked eons.
A raven flies low, his shadow
sweeps across stone and through,
falls through my skull
& down spine, swoops into
the center of joy. Flies out from my head,
carries quick essence across
rabbitbrush & sage
and zips up the vertical
red rock face, dark arch
of spread-fingered wings crooning softly
to stone all the way up.
Desert ravens have entered me in so many ways. I am always stunned by a bird’s shadow falling through me, and want more.
It is a curiously intimate thing, the shadow. And the desert is generous with both shadow and stone.
A big old pueblo dog at San Ildefonso
lies in bright sun against an adobe wall.
As we approach and greet his matted fur
and rheumy eyes, he slaps his feathered tail
against the dust he lies in, raises
tall dust plumes the color of adobe
to drift across the sunstilled square.
In every reservation village there are dogs lying about. They are always happy and a bit surprised to be greeted with approval.
Near Ghost Ranch
curtains of light
spill without end
from clouds alive
Georgia O’Keeffe’s country is all about light. Sky sweeps land right off the stage.
As the trail turns a corner, a hundred drake
wood ducks break from water like nuggets
of stained glass all at once cast into sunlight.
birds throwing themselves up, away from
my staggered self, flailing for balance.
Three remain on the slough. At some signal
they stand on their tails and beat water
into diamonds, then leap up to the flock
to begin again the night’s flight.
Wood duck males “raft up” to molt, then migrate in these large flocks and travel as one to wintering grounds. Wood ducks fly for a night, then sit down and graze duckweed for the day. I am still stunned by this sheer energy of beauty. Breath took some time to recover; my eyes may or may not.
Caught a feather in my hand!
Like all these autumn leaves it
drifted down from nowhere.
When I reached, it nestled in my grasp.
From the colors, a blue jay’s primary,
perhaps pushed out by its replacement,
or torn loose in flutter-fight.
The feather is warm and all but alive,
and I smile goofily up and holler thanks.
Feathers are incredible. All the vanes grown angled from the shaft and each toothed. The symmetry is perfect. To catch a feather before it is ever grounded has its own sort of symmetry.
Like so many recurved bird-forms
spooned close each to each,
marsh milkweed pods now
bare of silk seem
poised for flight, as if
their seed were not enough
to offer to the sky.
Spent pods of so many plants take on a lovely liveliness as they persist into autumn, gifts rather like our favorite aging faces.
Monkshood is finally in flower,
a lovely tall cap each blossom,
a hood to hide the tonsured pate
of a mendicant friar in Ages Dark,
which must have been less so
on these circling days when
monkshood finally opens and autumnal
bees clamber up these blue-veined hoods,
hungry to taste one last flower for the hive,
fill pollen bags with final gold
before the ending snap of cold.
Monkshood blue varies with light and shade from purple to that distant deeper blue that skies turn in northern autumns. It is an elegiac blue.
Near the Rio Grande gorge
hills of harvester ants
are built in the sage close
to where rain water will rush.
The closer to the dry wash,
the larger the grains of gravel
that build the cone sides--
the arcology of ants is faced
for durability, as once was Cheop’s tomb.
Today the sage is rain green
and budded bright. Red ants rejoice
to clip green buds in the plant heights,
carry them all the way down to ground
and under—food and fresh water in one
harvest—Tao ant sagacity.
If I crushed this leaf in my hand
to dust it would return.
It‘s dry and golden brown,
veins raised as on a hand
worked long. These ridged veins
branch and smaller rebranch
down below the eye’s resolve.
This little fallen leaf contains
A fractal watershed,
the topography of drainage
expressed in the veins
of pumped lifeblood.
How marvelous that rivers of fluid
flow both ways and find
The fractal nature of many features of Earth is a wonder that does not cease. The intuitive sense we have for pattern and similarity is hyperactive when we are outdoors, and transforms leaf into landscape, landscape into leaf.
On the tableland above the young Rio Grande
along a little dry wash among the sage,
sere now but then a water rush,
I see a small shape emerging black
from sand, bend to pick it up and find
an arrowhead of black glass volcano born,
obsidian, formed of liquid rock sudden cooled.
It is sharp. I lick the flats,
hold it to the sun and find inside a rainbow.
The spectrum buried long in time, unseen
since the hands that made it first
lifted it to admire.
An ancient tool contains something of the man who pressure flaked this arrowhead, using perhaps the tip of an antler to form these conchoidal hollows. How interesting that the obsidian carries a memory of fire.
Clouds of black birds sweep
Autumn sky like pellets of black rain
blown sideways to the season, like
bits of silt cascading
down a mountain stream.
The birds fly and sway as one, create
shapes numinous and evanescent
as music in the dreaming mind
of the composer.
Perhaps Earth is a music dreamed, a dance of stardust swirled into life, a song sung in the sway of seasons as the planet rolls around the sun.
In the litter of the leaves
It is the mica wing
from a dragonfly,
it is chitin
intricately veined where
the new morph pumped
this wing unfolded
from where it hid
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. Light doesn’t fail.
Up the switchback canyon
alive with the winds
Of heat and rising height,
a single raven dances and glides,
solid raven black, but afternoon light
caught by high walls and painted stone
slicks raven’s wings as if oiled
and for a flash, feathers gleam gull white.
She loops and slides downstream,
plaits rushing streams made of air,
black wings cupped and held,
cupped and turning and held.
Another raven moment in Southern Utah. Ravens are often regarded as the finest fliers among birds. And that’s not all: According to many tribes, Raven created the whole shebang. And that’s not all: This blackest of birds can turn white!
Wan sky, dark pond.
One raindrop plunks and circles out,
another and another until circles all
collide. Nature imitating human life.
October’s ending seems a good time to sit and watch a pond, until a fat raindrop finds one’s bald spot. Our brains are 90% water, and we sure like to look at it—we are thinking water contemplating water. Puddle-minded some days.
Little spiders have been spinning in the night,
bright silks float everywhere in light.
In the windy dark they cast their silks
from here to here, from there to there
and out into sky’s everywhere to
obey that tickle in their spider minds,
that ancient urge to fling their silks
away, away until they fly.
Dispersal is worth the sacrifice of silk. After use, web-silk is typically consumed by the spider to conserve its strength. During the dispersal of small spiders sailing on their silk, eating the silk may become a way to come down. It’s one of countless things that will remain a mystery that Earth keeps to herself. She is entitled. (Some little spiders stay home and spin dewcatchers instead.)
Drove the North Country on a drizzly day
through deep stands of golden tamarack,
needles all unfallen, still intact, their gold
long hidden under green burning through all
the gray that can cloud the autumn mind.
Beside and behind these tall pyramids of gold
black spruces rank in narrow columns.
Such yin and yang wakes the eye, mates the eye to life.
Autumn in the boreal forest is an astonishing reminder that some conifers are deciduous. Tamarack is the wetfoot larch of North America. It is officially a softwood, but give it time to cure dry and, like oak, it cannot be nailed without drilling. Tamarack and black spruce often share the margins of the quaking sphagnum and cranberry of muskeg bogs.
On a still October day
Say your eyes are lit
with golden quaking aspens,
and you watch as leaves sift down
like gentle colored rain.
A pang of loss until
you see the light is still entire
beneath the trees.
Every year the light moves from the trees down to circle the ground beneath, and every year my eyes are delighted and amazed.
The great bird brushes redgold 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 such 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.
At Spruce House in Mesa Verde,
the stone floor around the deep circle of kiva
is sandstone colored faintly red.
Like the stone steps of old temples,
and like the paths worn deep into clay
subsoil around menhirs in Cornwall
and Brittany that stood before Egypt,
the red stone is worn around the kiva,
slightly dished all round by feet
bare or shod in cornhusk sandals.
Again we connect to the Old Ones
who worked stone, who were Brits
before the Celts, who built the boulder
courtyard houses with circular rooms
that still stand, who raised the longstones
and dished the earth around them
with the same homely feet we still
wear to walk our circles.
Seeing stone worn by the simple act of walking impresses, whether at Lourdes, puebloan kiva, or ancient Cornish menhir.
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Copyright © 2004 John Caddy