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John Caddy
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John Caddy's
Morning Earth Poems
November 2002



Hope springs eternal in the feline breast,
Cat never is, but always to be blessed.
Reject the morning threshold?
Shy back from horrid cold?
Shudder at the sight of snow?

The cat's eye says J'accuse!
to the opener of doors
who would a barepawed cat abuse
whom she should cravenly adore.

The back door surely will be warm,
for a cat loverly as I.

Shudder, lift an offended paw.
Ah well, worth a try.


Apologies to Alexander Pope. Attitude is everything to cats. It's twenty degrees this morning, enough to stimulate the feline conviction that the weather will be better at a different door, and if it's not, it's obviously the human's fault.



Two days of bright
sets the world right,
outside and in,
spirit and eye.
Drab leaves light,
colors paint wan.
On cinnamon ferns,
crystals paint white,
and how the light glows
through russet oaks,
and how the light grows
the spirit inside,
makes heart as bold
as cardinal's flight.


We in the north are so glad of the sun after drear that we really don't care if it's cold. Attached is a bit of color from a thawed honeysuckle flower.



Clustered red berries
bow beneath the fall
of leaf upon leaf upon leaf.
Each berry hard frozen,
but the seeds within wait
for a snow-tunnel vole
to swallow them down
and etch their hard coats.


We don't live in isolation; we interlive. Plants have evolved tasty fruits so mammals and birds will eat them and disperse their seeds, which have in turn developed hard coats that must be etched by stomach acids before they can germinate.
The berries belong to Smilax Solomon's Seal.



Pond crisped with ice, light shifts
on stiff ripples caught in the night.
New-fallen oak leaves
pinwheel on their points
or breeze across ice
on curved bellies while
yesterday's leaves sail
sedately in arrested glass


The winter of waiting has begun again. Some aspects of life pause as suddenly as ripples frozen in their little cyma curves. This is never quite believable. But, oh, the stillness and the light on ice.



Strong wind this dawn,
but not north wind,
this wind sings of west,
hints of south beneath
a sky that looks like blue.
Oak trees sway like masts
whose sails are slowly torn away
to tumble through the rising sky.

Other bits of earth sail
through my eyes;
purple finches banking
their small fires, passing through
like all of us, glad of skies
that look like blue.


Dawn is such a redemption, such a reminder of the long truths that sustain. And purple finches! In such wine is veritas.



Say you're under leaves
that see the upper face of soil,
and say you have such eyes
that let you see the large in small:
leaf bits tugged down earthworm holes,
castings that are shapes you've seen
in dreamtimes old,
twigs and acorn caps all helter-skeltered
into masks you may have worn,
and filaments so fine you only see
the glisten and the gleam of fungi reducing
lives to growth anew and drink
that shines there under leaves,
for this face of soil is slow fire and crucible
and generative womb.


John Keats once said "The world is full of magical things, waiting for our eyes to grow sharper." Isn't it, though.



When I stretch down to pick him up
he stays flat, belly down, but
curls into a sideways circle,
head to hind legs, just before the tail.
He does not try to hide his yellow spots
on rich black. They warn.
When my fingertips touch him he is cool
as salamanders are, and he curls to make
a bite that only a wide mouth can engulf.

We all go for the circle:
the fetal curl of the beaten,
the coil of the about to be eaten, to make
of ourselves a hard knot to swallow.

We all came from rounds, entered
from circles of birth, egg to blastula,
womb through birth canal, some with big heads,

like this tiger salamander I lift from the road,
but he's unwound directly from egg.
He struggles with the bars of his warm finger prison,
pushes cracks open, shoves his head strong, will as long
as he can, as long as no shadow swoops from above
to curl him into and out of the circle.


The circle is, among other things, a survival strategy to protect the tender belly. Witness porcupine and hedgehog, armadillo. We love to curl up. Perhaps we all were at our safest when we were spheres. (All animals begin as spherical blastulas.) Recognizing our selves in the cousins is at the center of our circles.



The pond is quiet,
stretched with birch trunks,
afloat with orange leaves.
Light flames the mirror
just as sun falls.


It is such moments that make life absolutely worthy



Two for fun this morning:

All morning oak leaves let go,
dance down breeze
as if born to skate and roll,
tip and totter, tease,
slide down the sky
glide down the air
ride wind down
to ground.

We play with sounds and rhythms in our mouths and ears from cradle on, just as Earth plays with her leaves. Say poems out loud.

Fresh from tundra,
they are elegant
in black bib,
white waistcoat,
hidden white in black tails
that flicker as
these juncos fly,
to the feeders,
where the nuthatch
looks down her beak at them
and beeps as if she finds
these country-cousin juncos
sadly overdressed.


Ah, the nuances of cool.



I watch cold wind through glass
and gray ice on the pond.
The last leaf on an elm lets go.

Yet the bluejay right outside
fills his throat with seeds
called flower of the sun.


It's a shivery morning outdoors, but I have fragrant coffee, and wise jays. Chickadees flick between seeds and trees.


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.



When leaves drift across blue sky
and birds fall to the feeders
the land becomes marine.

On a day the trees let go
and a thousand leaves sway down as one
the land becomes the sea,

and we slip in time, like
bubbles tumbled up from lungs
from land become the amnion.

The sideways flash of chickadee,
froth upon a newborn's lips,
leaves drift round this air become the sea.


We are salt sea creatures who still carry it around inside our skins, and an autumn day returns me home.



In the night
the pond turns white
with storybook flakes of snow.
Most are six-branched stars,
each branch growing crystal arrows
that pierce the eye,
they are so coldly beautiful.
Here and there they've tangled
into clusters and collapsed
on each other's spines.
Inside each flake of fallen sky
daylight bounces twice and thrice
before it dances out to
turn the pond snow white.


The microclimate of the interface of air and ice allows snowflakes to persist after their land-fallen cousins have sublimed into water vapor. Picture an old poet on his knees on thin ice, peering through a jeweler's loupe at pure crystalline wonders while trying not to breathe hot air on them (or on you).



The wing-thrum of
as she startles off the feeder:

Feathers translate ears.


So many of the important experiences are elusive and bubble quick. But they stick with us beyond any apparent significance. Writing is an art of moments.



Watch an overgrown kitten
try to sit on a purple mitten,
try to fit upon a purple mitten
much too small for the kitten
to even begin to fit on.

One paw on the palm,
next to it, paw two almost overlaps
the purple fabric of the mitten.
Now the kitten looks down
at how far are his back paws,
arches his back and places on the wrist
the toes of one rear foot, then
the cautious second.

Now to sit.
His eyes say, "Will I fit?"
Down goes his front,
Then down goes his rump.
He cranes around to see, but
there is no mitten, only kitten.

He rises carefully, replaces paws
back arched, and tries again,
First down goes his rump,
Then down goes his front.
Not even close!
No hint of purple shows.

Watch the no-longer-smitten kitten
scratch and claw the purple mitten
he won't fit on.


A second grader lurks in each of us. Once in awhile, I let mine write. The kitten is named Buster. Forgive me if you can.



I hear anger loud and growing as more crows
join the mob across the marsh.
Arrivals start their screams before they reach the trees.
Ancient hate hurls out in strident caws, hate
of dark night's claws that seize the crow at roost
before his throat can cry out shock and rage.
In the center of this black whorl of screams
sits the hawk or owl flexing talons, wishing
she were gone, but dares not fly
the swirling gauntlet of black beaks.

This is not mystery; we know a quid pro quo,
and although we big-brains are stunned by taloned hunters,
we do not know the terror of the crow that forged
pictures in its brain a million years ago.
All the cousins have instinctive fears, but only the social cousins become mobs. But beyond built-in fears of snakes and spiders, we are taught the pictures in the brain that turn us into mobs.



The grasses gold in morning sun
have turned now wan under louring skies.
Old pennon blades stream out
in bitter wind. Gold devolves
to dun when clouds bulge down
from cold, but bow the grasses must,
and you and I know that the white root
in frozen dark is golden sunlight stored
that cares naught for winter or for wind,
that rests now to prepare green spears
that will thrust again to fuse with light.


Time to walk against the wind. We bow to season now, and contemplate roots.



Horizon is just born.
In dim light I make out thin clouds
where we were promised clear,
But on cue the bitter air is here.
In porchlight , crystals gleam
on a thousand fallen leaves.
and a cardinal tut-tuts
toward the feeder.


Winter birds help me laugh at my self-dramatic leanings.