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John Caddy
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John Caddy's
Morning Earth Poems
February 2006



Little junco
charms winter here,
flies north to charm
arctic tundra
for the breeding,
with bill pink but for
black upon the tip, black
as the eye behind the beak
gleams twice, gleams bright.
Dark-hood sparrow
adorned with waistcoat white,
with feather tail
that scissors light,
white-black, black-white.
Juncos feed in mixed flocks with tree sparrows and other winter visitors. They are always dapper and alert, the definition of perky.



Out every window, Earth purified
returns to me the innocent eye
I held wide when child.
White this morning fell on bark
in silent windless darkness,
plays now etch-a-sketch
with contrapuntal twigs.

It is old, this collusion
of snow white and eyes
to see with new, but not so
old as the visual symbiosis
of the bark of branch and twig
with the crystal reign of snow.
In an overly warm winter, this unpredicted snow is a special gift, of the kind you don’t expect. After spending all its morning energy on art, the snow spent the afternoon hunkering down or dropping off in clumps whenever birds would land nearby.



How like human joints
these driftwood bones.
Where once they entered earth
the wending roots at trunk’s end
have been battered against rock, against
cliff, broken off, debarked, then
the restless long surf sanding to smooth
against the sands fine-grained by wind and sea
until roots become white stubs rounded like
bone ends that insert into larger.

These human eyes see connections
that are not, and that is well.
It is in the pattern search we spend lifetimes,
wondering, groping for signs
and finding connections life to life,
plunging through our deeps to find
metaphors that kernel truth.
We are the seekers of pattern,
and connection is itself what means.

In the flow of life process, what endures are the connections to other lives in which we are embedded.



Oak leaf blown by snow wind
in February finally let go
just when it was getting ripe
and of perfect hue, but now it cries,
for it landed on its neighbor’s spines.

I enjoy a play on words. I hope you do. I truly do find the colors of stubborn oak leaves amazing as they persist on the tree and won’t let go. Like all the aged, they ripen over time.


The crabapple tree holds still
hundreds of frozen apples,
mushy in the hand on warmer days.
The tree does not care, no waste here.
The seeds inside each fruit are alive
with root and leaf within. Soon
in spring-warmed days, the small apples
will ferment a sweet-sour hard cider,
and hang ready for the beaks
of robins returned and waxwing bands.
The birds will sing a tipsy song of spring
and cast seeds all the neighborhood about,
black seeds in a white puree of nitrogen,
and some wintered crabapple seeds will sprout.
Life is endlessly inventive. Many plant seeds do not sprout without a journey through a bird (or mammal), where the tough seed coat is acid-etched just enough to allow germination. Bird droppings are guano, rich in phosphorous and nitrates, essential plant nutrients. These spring apple plantings might not happen without microbial fermentation in the fruit that makes it sweeter as well as slightly alcoholic.  Earth has endless paths to success. All paths are interdependent and complex, and all require the participation of microbes.


I see things that are not there,
or is it here?
Today I saw a face in Grandpa Oak
that was not here,
or is it there?
Two bright eyes and one black nose
looked right at I
or is it me?
The face was toward the top
where raccoons lair
or is it lie?
Thought it was a raccoon’s mask, me,
or was it I?
It was black bark on a burl, with two
thin ledges holding snow for eyes,
or is it meez?
Or maybe it was you?
Or is it youse?
It’s the raccoon denning season, so when I saw a face looking toward my window from the giant old red oak I rushed to grab a camera, stepped ever so quietly onto the deck, and took a tele-photo. The silly poem is how I felt  (or is it feel?)


As the sun burns up the horizon
into cloudless blue at zero degrees,
brown horses stand broadside
to its rays to soak up some infra-red.
Brown? Earth pigments sun-splashed
from winter coats leap into my eyes
chestnut russets, umber and sienna burnt.
Horses are winter-patient
as frost whiskers.
They felt the sunrise arrive for hours,
after moonfall walked from the barn
into snow and the last cold stars,
picked their places and lined up
heads north, tails south,
waiting for the east.
How rich sun can make each life. Like these morning horses, we all have moments of splendor. Part of the beauty is that we are usually clueless, unaware. I enjoy the concept of aligning ourselves to the day.


Sudden snows present Earth
in white and black
like movies from the ‘30s,
old documentaries.
It feels right.
Winter in the north is basic shadow,
basic light.
Snow on bark outlines the dark
strive of branch and twig toward high
summer’s sun,
the sudden gift from clouded sky
all white, all black bark-incised.
Not film-flat, these gift days—rounded snow  
and offered depth that leads eyes in. Let’s go.



 When crow swoops to corn small birds scatter,
even jay jeers yield to his wing wind.
This does not make crow black.
Close, his beak gleams from stropping against bark.
This does not color crow coal.
His quick eye carries a chestnut hint,
nor does this gleam make crow black.
His beak curves lovely as ocean waves shape basalt.
This does not make crow black.
He lifts the crushed squirrel from the blacktop.
Such does not make crow black.
He carries the neck curve of aristocrats, but
carriage does not make crow black.
He flies through sudden snow and arrives intact.
This world white makes crow black.
Corvids are amazing, jay to jackdaw, rook to crow to raven. Consider Magpie. Great and smart survivors. They are especially grand against the backdrop of snow.



A simple forest road
curves away and out of sight.
A fallen alder branch
lies across the center green
where soil is not rolled hard.

A road, a path, a trail
that switchbacks up the mountain:
a way to seek the mystery,
the beckon of the curve
suffused with light and green.

I long to take this road, long
to follow through this curve, but know
that past this curve another
curve will pull at me,
and isn’t that the Way?


This road is in the Cascade Mountains of Washington, and is mirrored in many hearts. What an Earth this is!



Maple leaves gold or red can catch
my Autumn breath, but I like best
simple maple leaves in green, the ways
they arrange themselves on branches
so sun will spill down leaf to leaf as it crosses sky.

Green maple leaves spray across light
across a burned-out redwood stump,
above green tongues of rhododendron
that speak of climate warm and weather wet
and Earth all evergreen and right.


Coastal rainforest wakes such extravagance of mood and sensuality. There is nothing simple in it, yet there is everything simple in it.



Already she is here
even in this bitter time
where last she hatched her brood.
I watch the eagle stroke up
from winter marshlands
to the tree next to her great nest.
Four deep wing pulls and she stands,
a presence in a tree, a pair of eyes
so keen she sees whiskers stir
on a cottontail a quarter mile
across cattails brown on snow.
That connect, that raptor stare,
squeezes talons deep in bark
before release and lift.

When prey seems possible, how quickly she decides. I’ve been surprised but pleased to see the eagle already at the nest for the past week. Soon the nesting, as night compresses and light expands.




Twin acorn caps rest on sinking snow,
something about them bold.
They are at once accomplished and bereft,
acorns dropped from up to down,
leaf-slapped all the way from sun to soil.
Smooth inside, scaled diamonds out,
twin caps wait, empty now but filled.

As soon as they are unfrozen, the acorns under snow will stir themselves to extend a white tap root out and then bend straight down.

Cold. Quick breeze. Susurrus of dry blades.
A cluster of bleached marsh grass
stands against snow
on a ten-below sunstruck day.

Grass shadows stretch east,
shades of life as these relict blades,
for life waits under snow,
in taproots that embrace soil six feet down,
in white tiller shoots that seek wide
with blind sharp growing points
juicy to the pocket gopher who
will munch these roots in dug dark
and stuff his furry cheeks
with white he cannot see.

These standing blades will soon allow
spring rains to bear them flat, where
a million tiny soil-mouths will take them home
and worms pull soft bits down their holes.


It all comes down to circles.
Life arrives this way.
The cycle is circle as process,
these wintering leaves curl from the stem
as wood shavings curl up behind
the plane’s sharp cutter.
Something releases
when circles complete.
Tensions are no longer strains.
Why does this ball of an eye
perched in this orbit of bone
widen its pupil and gleam
when a circle homes on retina?

Organic forms are so rich with curves and orbs our fingers curve toward them. Circles curve up our lips; sometimes they shape “Oh.”



A ruck of pale cattails
punctuates a marsh of snow.
Even winter bleaked, these leaves
absorb more sun than reflect,
so each stem cluster rises
from a hollow softened down
below undulating white.
Pale dun on white slog after slog--
the eye’s color crave answered
by a russet patch sunlit strong
and rainbow lovely, a red-oak leaf
curls russet round a cattail,
points translucent past the stem.
The grateful eye homes in.

Contrast and color seize our attention. Most especially now. Amazing how much the winds enjoy oak leaves.




Seeds line the stem of a plant I don’t recall.
The long stem leans at an angle that
will plunk its seeds to soil when
snow melts and softens earth.
Each long seed wears a husk that ends
in three curling points, a jester’s cap,
but the bells just jingle inside me, until
the warming when the lucky seeds
that escape the teeth of mouse and vole
will thread a white rootling down and up
a stem of new green that will catch the eye
as a jingle catches ears.
Spring will ring fools in us all,
our puddle love, our goofy smiles.

This stem looks to be a grass, judging from the seed. The seed-shape is excellent, the faint burgundy fine against snow. The whole arrangement is unassuming but subtly marvelous, like most aspects of Earth seen close in good light.



A ghost leaf rests on snow.
It grew to ferry down through air
two round basswood seeds.
One globe is still attached,
black against snow.
Its mother flowers yellow sung
and magnetized the hum of bees.
Now the living seed rests
above dormant soil, next to
its translucent sail that reveals
a map of veins dark branching
down to capillaries that sap
seeped through to feed
the growth of seeds.

This floral leaf was always pale,
a flag to beckon moths at night
as flower scent calls daytime bees.
It grew and fed the flower clusters
that became fruits with several seeds.
Relict this leaf, and skeletal,
but revenant it carries still its seed

The seeds of basswood (linden) are dispersed slowly throughout fall and winter.



The fire of sumac berry
has hollowed winter,
with its red
has melted snow away,
cracked winter’s chest
and become its new
insistent heart.
 Hurry up, please, it’s time.



Catkins already wear their first guise,
plush animals push bud scales aside.
Buds begin to insist, carry
their charge of imminence with
colors bright as cheeks
of children’s laughter.