There is a hunger of the eye
in northern winter woods.
White without end, side-lit trees,
spruce greens dark as their shadows.
The eye grows so avid
a drop of blood on snow
can become epiphany.
On a cold still day with sun
and dropped shadows of birch trunks
chiaroscuro can suddenly
ring with orange when lichens
leap into the eye,
which crinkles all around with smiles.
Two lives of foam just
One has an eye.
One is Argus-eyed.
is fast, gorged with rain.
For now snouts touch,
part without sound
as a bubble expires
they begin to entirely
into the flow
they pattern with light.
The river is fast.
A long-billed curlew probes
a half-bill deep for worms.
Its beak tip flexes open in
hopes of touching what flees.
The bird is so intent on
what beak reports to brain
that it closes its eyes
almost all the way.
The most-closed eye connects
this mammal to this bird,
focus or pleasure—either will do.
A sea otter folds his paws upon his chest
and basks rear paddles in November sun.
Warm fingers and toes will tingle soon
as cold penetrates the sea he doesn’t leave.
He floats easy on his back, resting after hunt
and lunch. When he feels a chill
he will somersault and dive, tease a friend
to wrestle, or sidle up to a nearby female
to check her receptivity.
What is this otter charm?
How does he connect me so?
I was a boy before we had stuffed animals--
It’s the real animal that is this Puckish sprite,
a trickster with clown feet and the look of
always innocence, which is true.
With age, the otter head goes blond,
a two-toned look like a 50s hardtop.
Otter wears the face of mischief
waiting to be freed--but not for long.
A jay exists intensely
It’s stare is excellent,
does not confront.
But this stare
is entirely personal.
This jay’s stare, if human,
may say ill will.
But on this scrub jay
it simply asks a question:
The western scrub jay is natty, not at all a scrub (which is its botanical habitat). I am honored by its personal attention.
The white tailed kite hunts hawk-eyed,
courses over pickle weed,
scans for the tremble-leaf of mouse,
Flaps in place above a stir.
When the moment ripens,
the kite plummets talons first,
tussles on the ground, swallows,
flies to its bare perch,
surveys its turf with shadowed eyes.
Primal waters shrink me to my truth,
just a bit more than a gull.
Tiamat, Old Grandmother, I fear your
white crashes even as your ardor
compels my knee-knocked joy.
No hovering human should test your salt.
Had I wings I would not dare your crest.
But in time all returns to your womb,
all wears down, pebble and mountain,
feather and bone, all caught in slow
dissolve and flow as close to eternal
as I can dream or know. Downstream,
now there’s a word for savoring.
As ocean life slowly creates new limestone in the deeps, and magma seeps up in rifts to make basalt, the lively magma mantle pulls some rock & water down to refresh itself, lifts some up to make new land, all in spans of time that are hard to wrap your mind around.
Look at “rock cycle” here
Leathery fern lives submersed in green,
found a giant spruce to anchor on,
green moss on bark to soak its rhizomes,
green thick blades shine evergreen.
Lichens catch gray-green bright on moss,
Even light in this cloud-wood falls
through trunks in shafts of gold and green.
When I turn a blade and see wet red
I quick step back into tippy moss,
flail arm and mind for balance.
Red frog?! Red slug?! Look again
and see budding like young nipples,
rows of sori , that will offer spores
to air from this fruiting blade.
The spore pods called sori that we commonly see are black in their maturity. This epiphyte really is named “leathery fern.”
Twin mule deer race down a fallow field,
spring in pure grace the barbed wire, when
one abruptly stops to scratch
an itch that could not wait.
The yearling uses whatever will reach,
the sharp edges of a hind hoof
to subdue insistent skull skin.
Which of us finds grace
scratching a demanding itch?
I suspect this deer is male,
feeling the first bewildering
torment of antlers,
the velvet buds swollen,
but young bucks cannot think
about what’s to come
in scratching that demanding itch.
We mammals all have the similar life challenges, but luckily for deer, the rut is seasonal.
Water everywhere is sudden ice
except for downhill streams.
Here ice is wet beneath, translucence
that shows bottom leaves and water flow.
Crystals sublimate from air to coat
deadwood on the bank.
Edges of thin ice grow into the eddy shapes
of water traveling in curves all flow requires.
Surface water near the banks slows and jells
toward ice, shifts phase with night and light,
skin-thin ice grows and erodes with
every shift of cloud and sun.
The thickened stream flows on, the sheer
music of flow captured in the whorls
and curving lines with a cold but urgent
charge made visible and sent into my eye.
Water is so ordinary that we forget what magical phase changes it plays, liquid to solid to vapor all in a blink. We are water magic too: two-thirds hydrogen dioxide—we speak of our blood boiling or turning to ice, thickening and thinning.
Snowy Egret stands and contemplates the Way,
ignores our passing boat,
alert to our intrusion but knows his ground,
his estuary mudbank.
A stiff breeze blows upstream,
flutters plume and feather.
It does not shift his black beak
or the one gold foot he stands upon
even in this breeze,
for his eyes are on eternity.
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