Ocean waves carve
the edges of the continent
into sea stacks, rugged crags.
Wind and time and wave slowly
hollow headlands where
headlands are made of fossil sea.
Cave roofs collapse
to make rock stacks in mist
where gulls make free.
Eons of tiny plankton shells sank
into abyssal dark and cemented into rock
that lifted gasping one day into light.
Life begot this fossiled stone,
Now the sea reclaims its own.
Note: For more on this process, see
In salt shallows a juvenile gull
relishes its hold on a young yellow crab.
It took four drop and re-catches
to find a proper dangling hold.
The gull hustles to shore to eat--
less chance for breakfast to escape.
Young beings begin life as prey,
every predator loves an egg.
After hatch and growing, kids
are up for grabs and tender.
There are many offspring of the sea.
Crab or California Gull, few mature.
Note: If the gull pulls off that leg, the crab could scuttle away and grow another. A small but real chance.
In slant Autumnal light
a monarch becomes lamp
as late bull thistles give up
sweet nectar pooled deep
below a burst of purple petals.
This lamp alive, here, now, sheds light
on what season soon arrives.
Thistle spines for cold and north wind,
silhouetted buds and pods stark against
bright drifted snow, memories
of color held as deep within my mind
as the monarch’s tongue must reach
to fuel its long dancing-flutter south.
In winter I will replay these acute thistles,
and their giving to a living lamp
that drank nectar and orange sunlight
and morphed them into saving flight.
Note: All lives continually transform. Being really is becoming.
For more on transformation, go here:
I watch two stilts, black-necked,
take their leisure in salt marsh.
When one stilt bends its knee to scratch,
that long pink leg staggers me again
into delighted disbelief.
Feathers all white and black.
That white above the eye takes me aback.
It has a half-lidded languorous appeal
like Bacall’s eyes when she teased Bogart.
Poor pretty bird, to be anthropomorphized so by
an old fool’s memories of movies black and white.
Two Heermann’s Gulls hunt
shallow scraps of waves
for tossed sand crabs or
any wave-torn life near shore.
They leap and flutter-fly
from turbulent white slosh.
Even in thin fog, their spread wings
evoke half-memories of the flight
I desire when birds fill my eyes
but drop from in-sight as feathers.
But when I lie down to night’s dreams
I will beat my wings until light.
Calico asters are in full cry,
and bees answer their call.
Flowers and buds sing such a medley
of pinks and yellows and whites
that one gold-furred bee slips
from the eye, camouflaged in calico.
The bee gorges on nectar
while collecting huge pollen thighs.
She will mix wet and dry
to make bee bread to place
in each of her children’s cells
so they can next season ensure
that the calico’ cries are heard.
So both are led season to season,
a fine circle song of feeder and fed.
October in Duluth, Minnesota:
a Painted Lady finds flowers still in bloom.
I delight as she flits from sedum red
to cosmos rose. Each nectar well
is probed with her tongue-straw.
Rarely may I see her wings held closed.
blue eyespots climb her hind wing rim,
each circled with a thin gold ring.
This dapple underneath both wings
offers me a forest pool of fallen leaves,
prismatic water shifts in colored light:
Summer carries Autumn always with her.
These tufts look marine,
I almost expect them to wave,
as if on a coral reef.
A spruce log blocks the trail,
else I would not see
the red-brown tufts
that dot the wood surface
like clumps of errant whiskers.
Each column lifts from wood
on a wiry stem improbably thin.
The tufts must carry spores.
A fungus that decays dead wood?
When I explore, I find these tufts
are fruiting spores of the slime mould
Stemonitis fusca, aka pipe cleaner.
There is no slime net in the wood.
Tufts are the whole slime critter,
transformed to reproduce.
I’m relieved they have not waved.
Propped on forelegs
The little desert lizard
regards me from one eye
while her hind legs test
a hair trigger, dash ready.
If I hadn’t seen her move,
she would not exist, her
camouflage that strong.
If she were a male, her/
his belly would turn blue,
dooming camouflage, but
making him seductive
to ladies of his swift kind.
With a belly of bright blue,
it’s hard to go unseen.
Raptors select males
for agility and intellect.
But females in their season
stay protected in the patterns
of their cryptic scales
while males must risk their blue.
Two startled beings meet on a sandy drive,
one a tiny butterfly tasting sand for minerals,
one much larger being dazzled by this
living splash of color on dun sand.
An orange wing so rich I almost see it red.
Eyes of black on white carry into antennae
narrow striped black on white, tips clubbed black.
Another one flutters by. My dazzle lifts to air
into the flutter dance of butterflies that lets
them taste if this other one will mate.
Note: The butterfly is an American Copper.
Huge driftwood tree bole dried on sand beach.
Smoothed roots spread, leave deep windows to light.
Through one hole surf washes up the sand, I take a photo
of the wood, and later see piled mystery, gray and smooth
gleaming through the window, mirrored in wet sand.
Rounded stones that waves washed in?
But these final waves have lost such strength.
Some kind of clam? Where do waves pluck clams like this?
Then I know, for in the photo next, all the rounded stones
have vanished. They are tiny crabs,mole crabs,
dug deep in a trice but for brush antennae left
to filter feed in the endless swash and foam of surf.
A loggerhead shrike perches
on a spiny ocotillo cane.
The two are kith and kin,
cousins of the thorn and barb,
survivors of the drying air.
Desert life is edged and lean
and shrike’s hooked beak
is fit to catch a liitle bird
or grasshopper in leap
and hang it on a cactus spine
to tear apart and eat.
Shrike’s black eye is bright,
a stare intense as white sun
my eye can’t dare, but shrike’s
eye does not burn blind, it waits,
clear as the mask across its face.
The flowers of rattlesnake root present
Mother Earth styling.
Topped with a green sepal cap, points down,
a mauve petal overskirt
is flared out at the bottom by an exuberant petal
underskirt of white,
to reveal long golden styles split into four,
each curled up as if
to expand the pleasure of pollination.
Sulfur butterflies cluster in early Fall,
to slide tube tongues between sand grains
to find the salts their bodies need.
Sulfurs are skittish, leap to flight easily.
I take picture of one just leaving sand,
backlit by sun now low in the southern sky.
It flies over a beetle, itself just folding wings.
Two such different beauties offered at once.
Such lamplight through butterfly wings.
What a pattern on the beetle’s wing covers.
With this fauna of sand, my cup runneth over.
Note: The beetle is Cicindela formosa, Big Sand Tiger Beetle, a beautiful predator, as so many are.
Beauty claims me first, then the foreleg
lifts to groom its face. How like us!
In this unseemly Autumn warmth,
a flower fly proclaims connection.
Does the fly clean, or does it ease an itch?
We can’t know, but I am pleased to see
again how embedded we are in Other.
Note: The beauty of Syrphid fly mimicry is as wonderful
as our sharing this gestural repertoire.
A meadow jumping mouse bit in half
lies on the still-green path,
left in night by a fox or coyote
not so hungry as it thought.
I grimace. Purse lips. Still,
nothing is wasted in the great cycle
of birth to death and collapse into
Earth’s great pools of nutrient atoms
from which we all rose wet.
The bargain is, we all eat, and we are all food,
if not for vultures, certainly for microbes.
But our bits will survive us forever, as will
those of the jumping mouse and the grasses
of his nest and the seeds of his granary.
We know that as life’s cycle spirals through time,
our atoms have been cycled and grown
into myriad lives of every kind and size
and will be so assembled infinitely again, even
into the long feet of the meadow jumping mouse.
Our knowing is old:
“In the sweat of thy brow shall you eat bread,
till you return to the ground; for out of it
were you taken: for dust you are,
and to dust shall you return.”
Bible: Genesis 3:19
"We created you from it, and return you into it…”
Koran: Surah 20:55.
It works every year, has
since before time was lost in mist.
Birds have plucked the offering
and bare berry panicles shine in sun,
each stem tipped with a scar
where a plump white berry grew.
Red osier dogwood bark
against sky blue celebrates again
this fruition of the year,
the way it lures the migrant birds
to plant and fertilize its seed.
The best lamps of all are leaves
graced from behind by low sun,
The lumen become numen.
Today we have Autumn ferns
growing from a rockface, sun
bright enough to show sori--
spore dots—on the lobes’ backsides.
In this low slung light, ferns glow gold
(some slow fronds green) as they dry
and begin to curl upward at the ends,
each lobe, each frond, to enact
in reverse the unroll of lobe and frond
that carried them last spring to green.
In preparation for All Hallows Eve
Battered long enough by surf,
Hammered against rock and sand
until sculpted into a new shape
almost animal, worn bit by bid to essence,
the sea born nub of a great redwood
kindles within a spark of life that knows
not of pushing out roots nor needles green,
but does know that its anger hungers,
and through a veil recalls being cut
and the terrible slow fall.
One night after storm the nub senses some
thing from the sea’s rage on it, left behind.
Its angry hunger grows a jaw, which bites down
hard on the kelp-whip in its sudden mouth.
It chews. What might next its hunger grow?
Before the russet and the red,
the oaks turn green-gold
with hints of what’s to come.
Every fall the dark of oak bark
set against the turning leaves
beguiles my eyes again.
The revelation of tree-branch form,
dividing up and up to twig and leaf,
arriving always at the fractal dome
that gathers sunlight best,
the light that grows these green gold
leaves that flow into my autumn.
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.
top of page