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John Caddy
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John Caddy's
Morning Earth Poems
November 2003




Last night’s breeze is captured on the pond,
caught in ripples, caught in ice
that translates first-light into wavelets gleaming smooth,
even light from gray November skies.

The ponds begin to grow their crystal roofs,
pushing herons south, pushing tadpoles and turtles
down to mud where lost in dream
they breathe through veins.
Tiny lives grow capsules now, drift down,
or die and sift to mud and leaves invisibly, all
the season’s fodder, all in preparation
for the melting in five months, and the burst of life, rebirth.


Gray thoughts under gray skies. Something about November makes poets and lyricists sententious, or at least, this poet.



First snow falls, for hours granular, then
classic fluff pushed by a north breeze.
It sweeps down and across just enough
to veil the horses in the pasture
as if daguerreotyped.
Two greyed buckskins toss and nod
to each other, stand touching
nose to nose in falling snow.


Horses are connoisseurs of snowfall. I love their sense of snow as cosmic play.



Bucks are on the move, velvet’s
rubbed away against a sapling wounded
in the need, wounded in the itch of antlers.
Does are scenting night, flaring nostrils
at the waft of other-who-is-all, of other
who scrapes leaves away from soil,
the lords of grunt who reach up
to branches, twist them down with antlers
aching to be used, as the rut is heating up.


Cernunnos stalks the woods again, as he has these million circlings of the sun.



As water is, we are.
We are water thinking.
We are water organ-ized,
our brains are happy puddles

We are water thought,
we are water, eyed and watching
water move in circles,
swirl the ponds with currents,
circulate as blood, rise up out of earth
in fountains we call trees and vaporize in air.

Water likes to change
Water likes to freeze--shrink and then expand
into a solid clear and hard.
And when the cold time comes,
and fountain-trees no longer feed the clouds,
we grow awhile afraid,
for the water that is our flesh may want
to join the water changing phase.
We shrink from coming winter,
we shiver and we shudder in the coming cold,
for we are water knowing
we are water, eyed and weeping,
for we are water thought.


Before we northerners get used to cold each year, we grow afraid. We wince and walk fast as tooth-chatter. Perhaps the water that is us feels the outside water changing phase calling it to freeze. Perhaps we are recalling glacier times.



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 bold
as cardinal's flight.


We 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.



Clear and cold, bright moon.
Nine degrees. Morning
squirrels run up trees, russet leaves
erupting from their jaws,
Green Man gone brown for Fall.

Run down empty, run about for more.
One squirrel nips off stubborn
leaves that won’t let go their twigs.
Oak leaves are all they carry up
to thicken nest walls against
north winds cold and clear.
The curls and points
must help the squirrels weave



Wind tugs at stubborn leaves
of oak and ironwood
that won’t let go, but
one by one they do
falter down the air,
one by one cold
stutters them down
to settle on the russet piles
that rustle loud
with startled paws. Soon
russet will be grounded all
but for the nests of squirrels.
Soon the chiaroscuro
of bark and snow.


I have a nonsensical fondness for stubborn things that won’t let go. After two nine degree mornings, though, even oaks let go. Ironwood leaves remain, curled in.



Slush blew sideways today
from the northwest
like a boreal horn player
blowing out the spit.

What it hit, it coated--
glasses, cheeks, bald spots--
all slushed, but life-heat
quick-changed phase,
and relieved fingers
found only drips of ordinary
oxide of hydrogen, unslushed.


Happily, it all melted shortly after turning landscapes a
thinned-milk white. Life on the edges of transition is usually uncomfortable.


In late-day sun
a flock of tree swallows swirls about
a crossroads where invisible flies must swarm.
Sunlight flashes on their wings,
warm light that coaxed out insects.
Swallows chase, they dive, alive, inhaling
fuel for the long night of beating south.
By now they should be far and warm.
This late, first-year birds may fall,
or all in sudden sleet.


This small drama of migration is outside human concerns. None will note their deaths nor their success, yet we hope for them in these caprices of November. FYI, tree swallows stay in southern North America for the winter; their cousins fly much farther south.


There is a harmony
of Autumn and a certain grief.
Garden duff suggests somehow beyond.
Zinnia petals recurve like slow sad songs.
A netted seedpod is an empty heart.
The cardinal feather cries for a preen.
Leaves of Solomon’s plume carry
all the yellow sad, the slumped, the torn.


The palette of Fall. An old man in a birthday mood. But there are always acorns.



Across drear sky, “Skreeeeee!”
Paired red-tailed hawks
fly tandem, low, just above trees,
wings cupped, dark. How together
they bank and wheel, no waste.
They ride air today like harriers,
hungry, wet, low above the pastures.
“Skreeeeee!” Does it freeze the vole
in its run as it lifts my eyes?


How the spirit lifts when the hawk pairs call. Gray November bright.



Birches quiet on the mirror pond,
then a roil of silver as a muskrat’s head
appears, begins to swim.
Liquid silver rolls into an arrow, birches
wobble into blobs trying to reform.
When the muskrat sees a watcher,
he leaps up as he dives, breaks
birches as he sinks below the mirror…
Soon his head is up, his tail beats behind
as the silver arrow grows again.
Behind the arrow, all the tree trunks
tremble and grow whole again.


Warm sun has thawed the ponds again. Duckweed gone, no wind, turtles asleep, frogs asleep, tiny lives encysted on the mud, but the muskrats are actively stocking the larder. It’s this adaptability that makes us mammals who we are.


Wind blows from the south, blue skies.
Hustle bustle across November road
little caterpillars, south to north,
smaller by half than the woolly bear,
but bristled: russet orange in front,
yellow tan behind. They cannot hold
against this wind. It rolls them on their backs,
black prolegs wiggling. Now genius: battered by wind
the caterpillars curl up nose to tail like bristly snails,
a ball for wind to roll right across smooth
blacktop, south to north at ten times leg speed.
Dropped in roadside rough, they unwind
and ripple through gravel upon their quest.


The ingenuity of rolling in wind! Talk about going with the flow. Life is ever astonishing.



The last aster has been loved,
has been kissed by frost.
Leaves are suddenly lucent, luminous
as the skin on an elder’s face.
The last aster’s blue has
washed her leaves. while within
her closing petal ring,
gold still bravely gleams.


There is such beauty when the frost ends the chloroplasts and allows the anthocyanins to be seen.


Old oak savanna stands in marsh today,
bare trunks rise from beaver water.
Here beetle larvae tunneled sapwood
under bark long years ago.
They wrote their growth deep in cambium
all about the trunks when the oaks
died as waters rose.
In time, bark fell off in sheets.
Pale wood grew gray in rain, in sun
grew riven, checked. Now
marsh grasses and osier brush
soften this old tale of death.

The human eye loves its melancholia,
loves its pattern search, so
I try to read these texts chewed in wood,
look for letters, hints of meaning where
I know there will be none. What is
that curlicue? The story etched remains
a text unread. But meaning does emerge,
obvious and unromantic. We eat to be--
these blind-carved texts do speak that joy.



The colors of mourning doves
against fresh snow:
high cirrus
moments before dawn.


Subtle and delicate colors intensify against mounded white, one of winter’s gifts. All color becomes extraordinary: the blues of jays suddenly shake the eye like a trumpet fanfare.


On these short days I look at buds,
fondle their hard shells even now
colored differently from bark.
Every bare bush and tree:
red maple buds flowers,
red osier its green leaves,
oak buds both.
Willow by the water
buds her furry catkins,
birch and aspen swell their own.
All these buds will wait with us
through dark that swallows day,
all waiting to unfold.


The smallest buds are promises. Praise the trees. Praise the bushes and the brush.