In slow cold rain a tiny frog
quickly quietly hops away
from my descending shoe,
hops again and this time
vanishes beneath red oak
leaves where he hunts
for hibernation food.
This is the frog who
pierces my ears with his
one-note cry that brightens
night in spring pools,
Spring Peeper, in truth
more loud than any peep.
I step wide over leaves where
he may hide, for he’s the frog
I hear but will not see
unless I walk Fall woods in
suddenly-bright cold rain.
Note: This inchling singer is Pseudacris crucifer, formerly Hyla crucifer, soon to become rare, one more, thanks to Monsanto’s Roundup and your cars and mine.
Robins pluck red fruit
and teeter on thin twigs.
They fly up as I step into sight.
Winterberries shine bright
against the gray-sky river.
Winterberry bark silhouettes
dark branches against flow.
I still see robins.
A feather slides on breeze.
A confused shadow on a mossed trunk.
A young shrub prepares for winter,
pulls water from its leaves,
pulls sap into its roots as days
darken early and begin late.
The shadow of dry leaves, curled bits
flattened this way and that:
The moment pushes my flesh into
its old animal fear of winter, the timid
response of age and ice and too many
times of wading through cold.
Does flesh remember glaciers
deep inside its cells? Or does mine
shrink today from our elected shadows?
Some mushrooms feel brash, like
this one thrust out of a branch scar
into bright Autumn light.
Looks most pleased with itself:
the curvy vase of its stem, perfect gills,
the fine umbrella to protect them,
all lifted high above the lubberly
mushrooms that fruit down below,
where any careless hoof or footfall
or every slug or nibbling mouse
can mean disaster for the spores.
Kudos to the mushroom with attitude,
high above the soil-bound horde.
The water in an autumn pool
seems to know what’s coming,
the freeze when it expands.
Already it lifts silken rims
around all that floats or pierces.
Water practices now to hold,
to swell in ice and not let go.
In a November sphagnum bog
where older moss has turned red
and the young green mosses
push up in their turn,
A pitcher plant still pools water,
though it’s turned red and old
and doesn’t know its food has died.
The pitcher summer green and veined,
now hardened, futile in winter red,
in spring will be crisp white and dead.
But the root will live to send forth
pitchers green and veined again.
Behind me, ancient Sitka spruce,
Before me, cliff, the yawn of space,
Below, the churn and crash of sea
against the impudence of rock
that dares to exist against
ocean’s ancient mastery.
Tumble and boil, seethe and roar,
water white and aqua blue
repeats its assault without end, as if
water knows it will break black rock
and in time surmount the cliff
and spill it down to embrace blue.
Note: This is Cape Perpetua on the Oregon coast.
In this time of falling,
Solemn Autumn intones
Chords of russet leaves
And red and gold,
The wistful season with
A touch of beauty sad,
So a many-hued fungus
Springs from oak in blue,
The color of the songs
Of folk who transform
Centuries of chains into
Beauty, into strength.
Note: This is turkey tail, Trametes versicolor, most commonly brown, but in many color versions, blue least often in my central MN.
A flash of red lands on wood.
I startle to delight.
An old November meadowhawk
gathers sun heat while it can.
Only on bright warm days will
late midges sparkle for its jaws.
Autumn meadowhawks will fly
until ice crystals shut them down
and they fade from perch to soil,
their eggs leavening the pools.
Red pickleweed sets off rich blues.
Great Blue Heron stands one legged
next a stump about his height,
doing without doing.
His golden eye is bright.
His foot clasps the stump root.
From distance, two forms.
I wonder: Does he feel less seen,
still and balanced by the stump?
Berries hang in a cage of frost, perhaps
becoming sweeter for the freezing.
I hang suspended in the human cage
of cold called power outage, caught
in a web of electronic ignition
with no electrons dancing down wires.
No furnace, no water, all the cold
one would never request. But snow
makes this gray day bright, and frost
crystals compel my love and praise.
I am no sweeter for the freezing,
but if berries so become, then birds
will fuel themselves with fruit against
the cold, and sow their purposed seed.
Frostbite on some petals, spots grayed.
Again this year she won’t make seed.
Monkshood offers pollen to her bees,
but they have fallen to the cold.
She is late again from under shade
of tall red oaks and lower,
spruce, and highbush cranberry.
Such beauty have blue veins in lifted hoods,
but those veins curled in bud along her stalk
will never fill, for she has pulled her sap to root.
The seed on this grass seed spike
has begun to sow itself.
Alternate seeds have sprung free,
leaving small white circles,
each circle centered with a vein’s dot,
where fed the growing seed.
A sequenced release spreads seed
in both time and place, the better
to survive microclimate change.
and simple happenstance.
What a long slow intelligence, this grass.
I’m glad it kept the guard hair bottlebrush,
a pleasure to my fingertips and palm.
Oh! There rain the seeds, all at once.
What a quick, thick intelligence, this man.
The night before the snow, beaver
tracked his teeth through the heart of tree.
I can see the years, the sapling heart.
Beaver now stores winter’s food.
When he drops this tree, he’ll top it,
drag off all the living branches,
shoves branch stems upright into mud
to keep tasty bark away from ice.
I stroke my fingers across tooth cuts,
sharp ridges, the muscle work of jaw.
Abruptly it feels too personal, too
intimate with another creature’s mouth.
My hand should mind its own affairs.
Just before the freeze a leaf
lets go of its knobby natal twig,
whimsys here and there through air
and finds blue sky to float upon,
a small brown boat with lifted bow
and up-curled sides with points,
the stern a stem with shadow sharp.
It barely pocks the water-sky,
no wind astir or cloud in sight.
I breathe a wish to shrink and board.
A group of willets tuck their heads
and take their ease on morning’s tidal flat.
Their innocence is powerful, their peace
absorbs me as water mirrors and contains.
This curve of head, beak tucked into wing
wakes in me a stillness at my core
I don’t usually inhabit. I do try, but often
need a lesson from authentic lives who
know nothing of me and care not at all.
Bless willets in their slumber,
bless the moon that pulls up sea
to flood the moss-greened flats
and feed the lives that grow the willets
who spill into me this breathing still.
Note: Jetty Road, Moss Landing, Monterey Bay, California
Like a tale from long gone times
A thousand geese and ducks take to sky.
No chug of shotgun sent them up, they
willed en masse to make sky muscular.
They are white front geese, snow geese,
pelicans and myriad ducks, all kinds,
a glimpse of the Eden that was, when all
we could think of was to kill them to sell,
though some killed out of lust
and some with ditch and plow
while some few killed out of need.
Note: This resurgent spectacle was at the Sacramento River NWR
Small moments of delight happen
when I’m on my knees to free
my eyes from common height
and court Earth gifts of surprise.
Down near soil a goldenrod gall
puts on blue-black and red
to cheer the solstice season.
Inside a white grub chews, knows
nothing of the gift I’m given,
knows not its house heartens
this old man with muddy knees.
It’s sticky, this new snow,
but spiky Echinacea seeds
present it like the gift it is.
Seeds know the guises water takes,
from melt that swells seed
to unfold cotyledons into light
and ignite flat white with green,
to ice, which is to seeds simply
dreams postponed until
Earth rolls further around Sol
when all with Spring will swell.
Under a thin moon, a furred cousin
wanders frozen marsh in search of--
I wonder what? Easy answer: food, but
maybe looking for a mate, a friend,
a scent of the familiar in this change?
Or, perhaps these recurved tracks simply
wander bemused, like sleepwaked minds
dreaming ice and snow again
beneath a cold-thinned moon.
On a lichen-tossed sea of stone
rides an acorn shell boat that fell
rough from Sky-Squirrel’s jaws.
The boat is about to beach
on a blue and leafy reef,
But the skipper, I fear,
has untimely come to grief.
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