A deer skull in the woods, wearing antlers still,
a two–point buck, no other nearby bones.
Like every death, a mystery.
My finger traces sutures on top,
knowing kin in this mammal puzzle jigsaw.
How intricate these locks. Like mine,
two across, but one along a crest I don’t have.
What did these sutures lock in?
As my finger traces seams,
my lips compress into regret.
This is for many both a time of regret and a welling of hope.
I suspect this has been true as long as we’ve kept the year.
All Earth’s gifts of beauty and surprise make my hope inevitable.
The calyx of bittersweet’s flower lasts
beyond berry, beyond leaves.
It gapes to winter, a surprised mouth.
It has lots of company.
Some who gape go south. The best stay,
like bittersweet’s orange calyx, they
know that bitter completes sweet.
A little self-congratulation goes a long way, but hey, the
lotus-eaters are among us, have become us.
Marsh milkweed pods
before the ice
a song for eyes
in winter light.
A visual jubilation! Seeds are spread, circle is complete. Each seed a testament to faith. A truly universal song.
Before dawn, new snow
already catching light,
a young deer strolls and scuffs
each small hoof through snow.
Fresh snow pleasures her, how
it feels against jet hooves.
Centuries ago, on my way to school,
I scuffed buckle overshoes through snow,
recall looking back at my tracks.
This little doe checked hers too.
If you were careful to leave your overshoes unbuckled, with each step the heel would drop a little, if your mother bought a bit of room to grow. I love knowing childplay lives inside a whitetail deer.
Cattail velvet plush.
Rivulets gleam ice-edged
in perfect morning silence
across ranks of russet flower heads.
Water has so many textures in its phases, and in winter-slanted light, incredible. Bless the humble cattail.
Sometimes dead oaks haul out
ancient masks to place
shivers in our wind.
This barkless cavity where
a branch once stretched
is a mouth crying out
of the condition we call human.
Its arms reach up to beg,
like Brython princes before
the Druids gave them to the bog.
Twin buds of red oak
angle skyward in winter motion, slow.
A small snow last night fell.
Clear dawn angles down
between two trunks, just
enough to merge caught flakes
into a vibrant drop
which with colder air astir
again shifts phase
into crystal ice perched
on buds and calling light.
Seems all of us are after calling light these days.
Birch bark willing to be text
rolls up ready into scrolls, so if
you want to tell a tale,
you must learn how to unroll
and hold the birch bark scroll.
If you want to ply the bark
with quills of porcupine,
and if it is tough winter bark
you must soak it in a pool
until it trusts your awl.
Bark of birch is artist’s bark—on the inside smooth, soft, and honey warm. It takes writing well, and drawn pictographs.
Stumps of drowned trees
lift above pond ice,
after they’ve lost
heads to see and wings
that painted spring winds green.
A sunny day in rainforest after last night’s snow.
The pool below the hemlock is too rippled to reflect,
draws a circle on her mirror for each drop of snowmelt
that falls from moss strands dangled green from branches
high above the hidden pool reflecting rippled sky of blue.
There is reflection, and reflection. Circles help.
Among rock stacks on the stoney beach,
I look down and there they are, stone sculpted
by the crashing waves of winter tides
into heads of dolphins, or what waves
remember of sleek swimmers diving through.
I’m not as surprised as I should be that ocean
can recall organic forms, for it fills me.
These ocean-carved sculptures are made of limestone which was made from the skeletons of myriad small lives. No wonder rock made by life can echo organic forms.
Raw snow bounds this forest pool as
its mosses pluck sun from quiet air, mosslight
cast about the shallow pool of a stream
that wills falling snow to swell its flow.
This Whole: Leaning bigleaf maples furred
with moss, angled echoes in the pool,
sword ferns green but frosted,
logs downstream dark bright
and near, pendant boughs
of hemlock needles green, this whole
rich with forest eons in the rain.
Were I old as this forest is old, I might truly enter here.
I can only ripple surface, quickly damped
but inside me lively from the center out.
This is the ancient rainforest of the Olympic Peninsula on the West Coast.
Green Man rears up in my eyes,
all shag and fern edged bright.
Somewhere under all that drape and sway
he wears bark for hide and wood for bone.
Old sponge, he soaks it in, this melt
from last night’s skin of white,
lets some drain to icicles
hung crystalline on moss.
Cold, but sky’s all bright and blue.
Green Man stretches to embrace.
January sunset paints wind-torn clouds
above etched firs; some
clouds swollen, dark,
some pink as young cheeks, all the sky
tattered topsy-turvy in winds
that will fling hailstones flat
at the night-glowed glass
I hope soon to be behind.
Visible sky is an incredible gift, but it is not available to the horizon for most people. Another urban ‘extinction of experience.’ (This perfect phrase from Robert Michael Pyle.)
Robust thorns rise from snowmelt
just after sun has had its way.
The reason for the thorns
is safe from browser nibbles, pale
folds of new leaf grow
beneath bud scales,
and wait out snow and cold
before the birth of green.
Would that our buds came with such protection. Our thorns develop slowly.
The old temple builders knew
from longstone to cathedral that
our kind need columns, trees
like these two red cedars
with a perfect opening between,
for we were of the forest forever
before the grasslands knew our soles.
And we need the aisle between, path
to sacred space, the place to find fruit
for spirit and belly both.
Step between these trees,
ferns welcome you,
light spills through shadows.
Far down the path, a raven cronks.
The eagles’ river will not freeze
though snow has chased it here.
Steelhead run upstream today
to spawn in mountain streams.
Eagles love this winter run, a time
to transform trout flesh into flight.
When we cross the Quinault bridge, eagles
scatter all which ways. One juvenile
stays close in an old alder
and studies me. Her head has begun
the molt to white, her beak almost gold,
she is four years old.
Tamsyn girl is just turned four,
and daily molts toward her becoming.
She studies me--lets Grandpa see:
The spirit in her is eagle-fierce.
Like her cousin on the branch, her eyes
are wide to catch whatever moves.
These two will not do the safest thing,
they try life out so they will know.
So, dear four-year-olds, keep your spirits fierce,
feathers preened, try lives on for size,
and in your time,
molt into the who you must become.
Dawn: driftlogs white with sift of snow,
boneyard of beach and wind and moonpull.
Windless cold snuffs living heat.
While surf offshore catches first bright,
bare roots of giants gesture torn fingers
as if to ward tides, but their trunks--
even helter-skeltered by storm, rolled
and rolled without end against rock
broken down to sand by breakers
that have carved land for endless dawns--
these bone trunks know themselves
worn nub smooth and done.
Winter on the west coast of the Olympic Peninsula. Cold beauty.
At ten below, the dawn horse welcomes sun
as it rolls up over trees, and casts infra-red
to warm and brighten beauty. Since eohippus
lay dainty tracks on in snow way back,
winter horses have made their ways from shadow
for the dawn, climbed knolls to be sure
of rays direct in the instant when
silhouetted barrels leap from shadow
into colors that kindle again
all the wavelengths of warm.
top of page
Return to Poem Archives
Copyright © Morning Earth 2007