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John Caddy
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Morning Earth Poems

October 2009

by John Caddy

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A small spider pretends that she
is just another plant stem part;
her puffed-wheat abdomen plays
a persuasive seed pod.
She raced down from her web when
my great galumphing face came close.
If not for that one pair of eyes looking up
I would have lost her.
Legs as long as shaggy dog tales
name her kind Stretch Spider, but
it is these startled eyes that endear.

Tetragnatha spiders have eight paired eyes, but only two
in this species look up as if to say, “I see you but you can’t see me.”


Like infants small and soft, mushrooms
most amaze when they first spring forth.
This Lepiota rises from a collar
of elegance, rimmed with a lip
out-curved like fine stoneware,
proof again that left to need,
all we living Earthware beings
arrive at the circles and curves
that enclose our strivings.

The mushroom’s textured surface
has already tempted a mouse to eat from it
two teardrops, gravity’s circles that as well
bespeak our fallings and our strivings.


Morning tide has brought an evocative shape
and sprinkled it in relief with sand,
as if spindrift had been caught from a wave crest
and grained in quartz and shadow.
This shape of spray seems to gesture
like the raised veins of a dried oak leaf,
or tendons atop my own aged opened hand.
Maybe that’s it—the pathos of this tidal form.

But I also sense an offer, an opening, made
like the ribs of a paper fan snapped open.
So what is it beneath this spray of sand?
Filaments join in a thickened root, as if
flowers had been clipped from the stems
of a nosegay, deflowered by time and tides.
I choose not to uncover here wan fact,
sure of the layered seeds of similitude.


Sentries of white-fronted geese
create performance art
for homeland security,
a tableaux vivant of the mirror
Mother Nature holds
before the human eye.
The question:
Can high seriousness
coexist with laughter?



Cormorants carry on socially
atop a sea-battered spine of rock.
The wide gawps of two birds could be
those of young bravos daring others
to “Go ahead, jump. Double-dare ya.”
When two birds do leap out into wind,
one shuts up, but the goading gawper
(always found furthest from the edge)
seems doubly delighted in ill-wishing.

But cormorants are a separate kind, and I
a fool to story them in a human mirror.

Why the rear cormorant gapes so open
I have no slightest clue, but I delight
in this child of sea and air and stone
as he throws his beak back wide
and passion wells up and out his throat.


Iridescence walks the marshland
with long legs, stops to probe mud
for grubs and bugs with a scimitar.
Sunlight and gloss-green feathers
play together in a shifting array
of leaf shades fused with grays.
Her cousin ibis was sacred in Old Egypt,
avatar of Thoth. Men proved their odd
reverence by sacrificing the ibis
and mummifying it. That sacred ibis
was a messenger of the sun god Ra.
This splendid ibis here, now, owns that role,
gifts sight with iridescent green
and the god’s bright ruby eye.


A leafhopper red and blue
on a crimson maple leaf
seems too unlikely to be true.

The autumnal leaf’s juice
along with its sweets
has drained down to the root,

So the hopper has another reason
for perching here this fall--
I think to celebrate the season,

Or testing Goethe’s complement colors?
The hopper is an aesthete wondering
Does this leaf enhance my blue
or does it make it duller?




A long-horned flower beetle eats daisy pollen.
How suddenly far away a daisy seems
right after first hard frost. Summer
was a dream we here are not to remember,
or only as we might recall pretty tales
told to us as children. Up north, to get through
Winter we all agree that Summer was warm
fantasy, good but distant. We abide.

Pretty flower beetle has no memories
to push down, for frost has struck
her dead. She lies in duff at a field’s edge,
below shriveled petals, debris of dream.
But just below the duff her eggs survive
until the dream circles back around, alive.




Spirals abound here and beyond,
in pine cones, petals, winds,
shells, tendrils of vines,
stairs and galaxies and minds,
and everywhere alive or once,
DNA’s unnumbered helixes.

The spiral that draws to me most joy
is curled up by the butterfly after
pulling nectar up the tongue.
The white-tipped antennae
of the northern pearly eye
taste flowers in the breeze
and give wings direction so
the tongue can again unroll
to sip deep nectar from the gift


A tattered leaf finds itself glory-clothed,
cloaked in hoarfrost, backlit by new sun.
This leaf is one among hundreds alike,
yet the leaf form is a root geometry
of the cosmos, for on the leaf, among
crystal needles, frost has grown leaves--
veined and lobed and shining in the sun
that any moment will transform them
to droplets dripped on soil, as soon
the leaf will follow, where together
they will pass through worms and hyphae,
then feed root hairs of tender growth.


I seek a photograph.
Little red bellied snake seeks
a path I do not block.
I am the giant we fear, he and I,
the giant who owns no bounds
and scant courtesy, for we giants
imagine we were told we own
the likes of you, snakeling.

Fear the giants, lithe child,
cameras or not, meaning
well or meaning ill, for we giants
cripple beauty like yours
with our isolate pale fears.



When cold wind stirs the mirror,
chaos enchants the pool.
Autumn turns Earth upside down.
Cattail stem reflections meander,
light oscillates where it falls,
colors bloom like marbled paper.

Sky fills all night with refugees
who in day flip leaves for insects slowed.
Earth inverts again: warm is cold,
leaves sail down in color-showers,
the wet of life pulls down to roots,
green will be but memory,
wan and dun will color us, but pale.
Soon now we celebrate what dies
with candles bright and bones,
and propitiation of the spirits,
May they find us upright in the morn.

Forgive my threnody for the season’s wringing change.




I see faces everywhere.
The hollowed rock cries out
against the sea that batters it.
Surf has sculpted many mouths
that scream silently as a Munch, or
can’t be heard over ocean’s roar.
Should the sea find calm, I wonder,
would the rock mouths close?

We see faces. Our search target is
each other, emphasis on “Other.”
We search for signals of emotion
to discover our response. If the Other
suffers, can we let that enter us?
Or do we block that face, turn rock,
lock down feeling, turn away?




A sea otter floats on her back, replete
with clam as she gleans the last meat
from her second-helping shell.
She dug it from river mud, swam up with it,
took her crack stone from between her toes,
placed it on her breast, slammed the clam
down upon the stone to open it.
The young California gull stays close,
hoping to scavenge tidbits let slip
by the canny sea otter, who may,
(who knows) enjoy tantalizing the gull.
Otter holds the sun-bright half shell
empty on her breast as if to suggest,
“This, Gull Child, is what you can expect.”



A female curlew flies down through fog
and lands with attitude and cries.
Open wings and open incredible beak
that with sensitive tip seeks deep.
Sea lettuce sets off what fog allows
her russet feathers. With such long legs
and beak, tide-flat worms and clams
best dig deeper than the food dreams
of a breakfast hunting curlew girl.


Frost works two-edged magic on ferns,
killing fronds with great delicacy.
These fronds uncoiled from fiddleheads.
When subzero cold hits most of us,
we curl up in spirit as we were in Mom.
I am charmed to find a winter link
with the ancient we name Fern.


The moving hands and open mouth say it all:
I am free! sans clothes, sans propriety, released,
a child runs toward deliverance in salt sea.
His smooth soles barely touch sand.
He smells in sea a kind of mother scent,
absorbs a rhythmic rushing beat.
He is alive now deep in time, where children
by the thousand run naked to the wet.
As if to home, he runs toward blue.



The American toad, Bufo americanus,
gets in my face. Bufo means “clown.”
I have cherished this unwitting face
since young I first held him up to eyes.
Shakespeare said the toad “wears…
a precious jewel in his head,” likely
superstition, perhaps the wet flake gold
in his eyes, but today I believe the Bard
meant the physiognomy, this
delightful mug’s wide smile,
wise and accepting of his grace,
that stretches my own smile wide.


Mustached and eye-browed at both ends,
the daggers of this dagger moth are two:
fluorescent yellow darts at eyes,
two hundred sharp hairs; each packs a sting.

Still, like an outré Scottie terrier, it charms
as it toddles down a log in autumn woods,
off to find a secluded spot to cocoon, as
in Autumn, this two-legs wishes he could.



Autumnal light slow and low
backlights leaves mid-day.
White oak is this year subtle
in her tints and tones,
here a backlit burnt sienna, there
fawn, and just there umber, burnt
and glowing through three leaves.
Nothing here is harsh; dark oak bark
quickens the array of lantern leaves.


A singular leaf of big-toothed aspen,
freshly dropt, presents the fractal beauty
of process as green dies to brief reds
that will end as aspen gold. Ribbed veins
catch light to draw the branching tree,
the part again predicts the whole, angling
up and netting into capillaries ever smaller,
all lifting water from earth to sky again,
lifting like the cracked but yearning heart
of a person once again daring hope--
the part again anticipates the whole,
green biding in the bud that did not fall.



Where the last waves break,
tumbling little fish and leggy treats,
a seal hunts the shallow green.
A Heermann’s gull haunts the seal.
Surf foragers know that seals
are messy hunters who leave food
flip-flapping on froth. How
casual this swoop of wings appears,
this bobbing up to breathe,
how entirely serious these lives
as they cruise up and down shoreline.
Seal doesn’t mind this follower,
what is left is behind.


Black ruin his face:
nose burned away,
mouth melted closed,
he cannot speak,
but he can moan.
Deep in the dark hollows
of his sockets, something
like eyes has re-grown,
something wet that burns.

Born of fire’s red roar
he lives in silent shadows
where great trees rule.
He hides his scars behind ferns,
cannot bear eyes to fall on him.

People who live near
no longer dare hold Halloween,
for the tale is told and told
how some lonely pitying child
brought him a bag
and took him trick-or-treating
door to screaming door.



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