A bright day, grackles
strut the feeders, face off
puffed up, stretching to the sky
blue-green heads with golden eyes.
When a squirrel hogs the feeder in his turn
one grackle perches above,
so swollen in indignation that
the tips of his feathers turn to points.
Self-righteousness is not limited to humankind. Many cousins are capable of this failing. We do so enjoy seeing the biter get bit.
Great white boulders float still
upon still waters, enigmas until,
enlarged, you trace the long
white on white of neck back
and further back until it dips
beneath a white wing shoulder:
Swans, at rest.
When we can't make out another's eyes, our own are at a loss. Our search image is the head. Such a delight is recognition when the eye suddenly resolves mystery into meaning. This poem turns upon the resonance of 'enlarged.'
Two sets of tracks along the roadside,
the buck's on the south, dewclaw-deep and wide,
doe's along the north. Both walk
toward the sunrise hinted in the sky.
Say this tale I tell myself is true.
Say these two walk night together
but apart. She walks ahead of him,
places hind hooves exactly in her front tracks,
The nostrils of both wet and wide,
ears cocked. Breeze from south,
she scents him first, and strolls.
When he scents her he cuts a quick scrape
with his hind hooves—here--
throws his antlers back, coughs loud.
She stops, all ears and lifted nose.
Say you tell the rest.
Reading sign is a way of taling time. Tracks are flashback stories sometimes clear, sometimes obscure. We are one of the few critters that worries about covering its tracks. When you notice tracks, read them back.
After Indian summer
November has returned as wind
that roars through barren trees
and tries to strip the stubborn oaks
of their clutched leaves.
Willows whip with gold
they wept just yesterday.
With November wind returns the sky of gray
that dreams submerged in northern minds
until November wakes it
and we are somehow satisfied.
This entry will make sense only to spirits nurtured by the north. We grow up feeling that somehow winter is deserved, thus our sense of satisfied expectation when it rolls over us again.
The winds of autumn prune
weak branches from the trees.
The dead and dying fall,
and with them whole ecologies
that survive the wind for now.
Tree bark is a wonderland
of lives, each lichen teems
with life invisible, each crack
in rugose skin contains green life
grazed by creatures we don't see,
preyed upon by throbbing beings
we don't want in our memories.
Fallen, these ecologies will dwindle
and give birth to their decay,
which will swarm in turn with eaters
until branchwood is digested dust,
until hardest bark is curled and gray.
Out of sight is truly out of mind. We cannot hold it all within our consciousness, and we don't wish to--it's too much. But we should open our perception now and then to the microcosmic seethe, to ground ourselves within reality
Bluejay, goldfinch, chickadee,
fly within still water—mirror birds
just inside the surface, fluently
but, riffled here by breeze,
their wings break up,
separate, seamlessly rejoin,
fly to vanish at the shore,
leaving captured birches lying
in the pond, above deep clouds.
Seeing is an active, co-creative process. New eyes can be practiced.
A sharpshinned hawk beats fast
to catch a junco through the marsh.
He dives, arcs above water, turns, races over
cattails wingtips tick, dives but
misses, lands in a willow
to flex his talons, breathe and stare
at noisy chickadees who until
his shadow touches them
will not even care.
Most hunts fail. Meanwhile, we are all of us chickadees, living "as if". What is the alternative, even when the shadows dance the corners of the eye?
Long necks stretch out
intent as spears
while wide black feet slap
the water running as white wings
clap and featherclap
until very air becomes
the chant of swans.Trumpeter swans taking off is as beautiful a synesthesia as I can bear. Color, motion, sound, feather texture become one.
As sky and water go,
so goes crow,
who grows large against gray clouds,
and wingwide beating from
white morning fog
grows twice life-size,
flies through the eye and deep inside
where crow becomes the size of sky.
It is obvious that crows are size-changers. Our child eyes knew this, but denial trained our foolishness. Accept what vision gives you.
A young red squirrel carries curly leaves
up the column of an ancient oak,
abruptly disappears into a hole
I didn't see, pops out
and races down the bark
for another mouth of leaves
grown by this oak
to warm this squirrel's nest.
He runs up and down the tree
in paw-twinkling urgency,
unlulled by sweet November.
Up high, pink cirrus
drift emerging blue.
It's still warm today. This two-month squirrel knows something I've been willing to forget in my out-of-season lotus eater daze. Makes me want to curl up in a pile of leaves.
Last night, above the clouds,
the firmament streaked with fire
from drifting bits of comet dust
cold for eons, finally falling into
love's sudden burning gravity.
On the deck, hand prints of raccoons
who will now curl in hollow trees.
This morning here is frost. Again
we fall away from sunfired green,
true November is returned
as ice, as it should. Sky aflame above us,
we hug our skins and claim with chill gravity
that ice is lovely and quite nice.
Apologies to Robert Frost. Here ice will indeed suffice and even sublimate into Minnesota Nice.
Crisp and bright,
the cardinal on the chokecherry
so awash with sun
that as he flicks and flicks his tail,
the black bird just
below him on the trunk
reiterates him flick by jaunty flick.
Keats said "The world is filled with wonderful things, waiting for our eyes to grow sharper."
What sharpens my eyes are autumn days alive with boundless light. Such days always seem to offer sights we've never noticed before. In such sharp light the mundane becomes as extraordinary as it always is.
Across the marsh
shadow falls too soon.
Across the ponds
shadow steals reflected blue.
Air contracts with cold
when day should still be young.
As winter solstice grows
it shrinks our souls
and steals again the sun.
But north beyond the ponds,
white birch trunks flood
with falling sun; their reaching
crowns are red with next spring's buds.
We have been telling ourselves stories about surviving dark winter forever. Looking ahead is our unique ability and our curse. But bless the Tree, for it lets us sing in the knowledge that there will be spring.
Just past dawn
the gleam of frozen waves
the play of wind and cold
caught upon the pond,
even ripples saved,
but renewed sun arrives
and unsculpts wind's creations,
so the waves of yesterday dissolve into
reflections of today.
Trust the images offered us by earth. They often pull just what we need out of the crevasse of mind. Resonance with what we already know is what makes seeing nature powerful.