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John Caddy
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John Caddy's
Morning Earth Poems,
December 1999

 

12.1.99

It weighs more, this first December air,
when the gray sky presses down.
We know the weight of each inch square
column of sky is fourteen pounds,
and this crystal shaft stretches up miles
to press our bowed heads down.
On this December day it weighs
more than these leaden clouds of gray.

 

It's turned rather bleak here. In Seattle yesterday, a US trade representative actually said, "The environment is a barrier to trade."

 

12.2.99

His tail is spread,
his throat blood red,
Tom Turkey struts my lawn
to challenge other toms
to spread their fans and take him on.

 

12.3.99

The kitten paws up the glass
trying to reach the hawk decal
that saves feeder birds from death.
He knows this silhouette,
the outspread wings and tail
his claws are hungry for.
On his hind legs now, he stretches
for the shape that lives in kitten-dream
and the ancient memory of cells.
Careful, child. Don't be so sure
it will be fun to catch a hawk.

 

Probably one of our oldest pastimes is to find lessons in our animal observations. That's good, and inevitable. The trick in writing about it is to not sentimentalize and project humanity onto the animal. Stress the truth of the experience over any lesson to be gained.

 

12.6.99

Through these long nights pond ice grows—
crystals lengthen as temperatures shrink low.
But below the edge of ice nothing freezes—
green frogs sprawl on the bottom,
Painted turtles snuggle under mud,
snappers rest disguised as mossy stones,
and every heartbeat slows.
I wonder,
through these torpid minds that know
a pond I can't, what thick dreams flow?

 

12.7.99

It's dark, the year is old,
It's about balance—
without dark, no light,
without short, no long,
Warm requires cold.
I say all this to the cardinal
first at the dim feeder,
and he just says "So?"

 

Tip: When we wax philosophical, we are often pretty silly. Well, I am anyway. Poke a little fun at yourself in writing, but without putting yourself down. See, it's all about balance…

 

12.8.99

Light filters up the sky behind the oaks,
Windows in the branching mesh begin to glow,
the network of black branches captures me in slow
motion as all lives find the rhythm of this cold
time: no hurry, take it easy, save your whitened breath.
And on that line of branches, a row
of roosting doves—their heads begin to show
from under wings, and behind them in the window
now the sky wears hints of blue.

 

Every poem needs some glue to make it whole. Repeated vowel sounds (assonance) is one that's fun. We do assonance without being taught; we learn it in the crib. After a first draft, say your draft aloud and listen to what your ears were up to while your mind were busy thinking. So rather than teach something kids know, bring to conscious awareness a way of discovering power in the first draft. This helps writers develop their poems.

 

12.9.99

Morning Paradox

Outside my window two loud crows
open their beaks and Caw!
Scaled feet squeeze the branch
as they bounce up and down
to announce they own this day:
Across the dawning world
crow voices rasp and saw:
We are the lords of light,
We are the black that beats back night.

 

Cool here, but we are hungry for the beauty of snow, which is worth the cold.

 

12.10.99

Speak to earth, use your every voice,
speak to all her beings;
praise the lives of green
and all the lives with legs,
praise the lives who dance in air
and all who float and swim,
praise the diggers
and the delvers under soil,
praise the spores and praise the seeds—
now close your eyes to see
the tiny wrigglers everywhere,
the simpler ones who came before.

When you say hello to a ladybug on your hand,
your words praise earth.
When you rescue from the street a woolly bear,
Praise earth with your chuckle from its tickly feet.
When you lift your eyes to hawks,
your lilting heart is praise to earth.

If we speak well to earth,
she will fill our ears and eyes with secrets,
she will fill our dreams with healing images
she will fill our hearts with joy to share.

 

Forgive my wordy morning. Validate kids' natural normal willingness to speak to everything; it helps them feel connected. It helps them hope.

 

         

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