sun and bitter cold.
The morning turkey flaps
into the feeder and stands,
each feather red-gold-green,
as his long neck bobs down.
In a hungry flurry in flies cock pheasant,
sits between tom turkey's legs,
concentrates on seed,
white ring, red cheeks,
nape iridescent green.
Past his long tail flash
to claim quick flower seeds.
When hunger rules, the turkey's legs become simply architectural.
This was the beginning of a daylong parade of iridescence
across the ice to feed. Every day earth flowers new.
Another day of overcast it looks.
All drear until I step outside to hear
four kinds of birdsong calling dawn.
Three I know, one I cannot place.
So? Naming begs the point of songs
that erase gray to welcome day.
we know all we need to know, but still imagine we don't
know quite enough. Adam's task of naming may have been a
Still lightly falls this inch or two
of untouched snow,
no foot nor feather
has disturbed this crystal
journey from the sky
until I fill the feeders,
scatter seed, and as I write
in growing light the lizard feet
and wingtips of fluffy almost
weightless little birds
press down the flakes to eat
and register their being
white on white in snow.
And here comes crow.
Horses winter-shaggy stand
in large-flaked falling snow. This
the moment when snow falls just
faster on their backs
than body heat can melt,
and they turn white as patience
layers flakes on broad backs,
tangles manes, as once they winter-shaggy stood
on Asian steppes when the Fimbulwinter came,
their shapes blurred as snow fell ever more.
never know where or when the company of beauty will take
you. It's often a ‘where’ completely unpredictable,
and that's the fun.
After sleet and pebbled snow
what's left is crunch and crust.
When the cat goes out he steps
high, his tracks are small
as if he shrinks up away from gravity,
cannot bear full naked touch
of this strange crust
his small weight does not break.
There are no shadows in this winter
storm of thunder, ice and snow, only
a pale seep through clouds,
but this small light is bounced off
swirling snowflakes falling,
off the ice coat of every twig
and the ice nubs that hang from them,
off the whitened backs of birds
chipping at the ice crust.
By the time these bouncing photons
reach my squint
they are traveled well but bright.
of light multiply without end. Were I a painter, I would
go mad learning how to see and share my eyes.
Big Tom erects every feather of his back,
lifts and fans his fawn-tipped tail,
drops checkered wings, flips
the caruncle over his beak,
tightens head and neck into an S,
and stops, as if waiting for the world
to see his splendid truth.
While he waits his wattle burns
bright red, his face bright blue.
The small tom in the bushes
has no wish to be circled,
clamps every feather tight,
no hint of fire.
The splendid tom now sinks down
onto snow as if to melt it all away.
Not a crouch, more a settling on his throne.
As he must, the little tom looks on.
It is an odd thing to be a male. We crow, we gobble and
we strut, and for what? But in our brief puissance, we are
Such loud trumpets this goose pair blares
as just before sunrise over they wing, so loud
the lone crow in the dead oak
points his beak at them and barks
his caw five exasperated times.
In the whiteout slant of snow,
obscure swoops, loud caws:
Three crows, quarreling:
First things first.
Blizzard, a foot of drifted white,
and under it an inch of ice.
But under that,
the sharing of the dens.
Not all dig in fall.
With everyone's house
mouse and vole make free.
A cottontail curls in woodchuck’s den,
near a ball of red-bellied snakes.
Above new snow, chickadees
crowd nest holes
and knot holes and rot holes,
wing to wing with nuthatch,
jostling tree sparrows.
In this ancient sharing,
every cavity in every tree
is full-fluffed and warmed with
the heat of trip-hammer hearts.
Community is what survives. The beings that evolved together
stay alive in concert. Predators sleep alone; it's lonely
at the top.
The doe who bore this yearling
risks the yard in daylight, as her fawn
paws dark snow beneath the feeder.
She stands and watches.
He is lamed. When I move
he lifts his flag, straight up alarmed,
but cannot leap away from me.
How strange to see the flag unmoving.
His lifted unused hoof cuts a shallow groove
in snow as he slowly limps ten feet away
and drops exhausted in the brush.
She stands and watches
across a space uncrossable.
helplessness of parents. If it's not our child, how quickly
we retreat into abstraction: Too many deer anyway; they
don't feel pain the way we do. No cousin's death is cosmic
in importance, but the mystery of witness takes a toll.
A black squirrel runs across white,
fades beyond sight.
There are no surfaces,
air and snow are merged,
fog has blurred all boundaries.
Close by, a small bird flicks its tail
and pecks about. Into eternal white
time itself has disappeared.
Two crows stand somehow mid-air,
always and forever there.
Fog is confused, water's phase change from aerosol to gas
midway refused. Suffused with white snow, white fog, we
all seem to disappear, and life is suddenly entirely tentative.
In their first real season
of singing blood,
a dozen turkey boys, beards
not long, search melting snow
for seeds overlooked by squirrels
and pheasants and deer and jays
and by their own hopeful selves.
Of a sudden one spreads full wide his wings ,
beats one great clap and folds again.
A second does the same, and so
around the circle, each waits
for the last to fold his wings.
When all have spread and clapped,
all these bloodsong brothers
turn their odd blue heads
toward each other
as if to say, "What was that?"
the compulsions of the body's springtime. Or is that 'convulsions'?
Male wild turkeys grow on their breasts an odd 'beard' made
of hairlike feathers. Reminds me of a Scotsman's sporran.
As the sun lifts over trees,
I watch an early runner pass.
She burns all gold,
she wears the lifted face of glory.
What a morning wonder
to run into the sun.
She runs right from the stories
we once told around the fires
of the dawning of the world when
the golden face of glory we all wore.
poet Joe Paddock once jarred me out of bitterness when he
reminded me that "we are as splendid as any animal
on earth." One casualty of the unceasing flow of atrocious
"news" is our awareness of human beauty.
The bark of the oak
twists up the tree, shows
two tall turns grown within wood fibers.
This tree has climbed slow spirals
longer than my memory.
The plover in lake shallows
contrives with foot and wing to twirl,
and spinning on the water's surface
creates a vortex in the water column
that lifts morsels to her crafty beak.
the coyote turns three times or five
to sleep, curls tail over nose,
and rising before dawn, leaves
morning to reveal
the swirl imprinted on the green.
Images at zero degrees and sky bowl blue:
A redwinged blackbird
clings to a cattail stalk
sticking out of white
A woodchuck gallops
across the snow, skin
loose with loss of fat.
As I fill feeders,
big old Mama Possum
snuffles for seeds in turkey tracks.
She ignores me,
cranes her white face around
to observe the cat with large black eyes,
Toms and hens begin to pair off
and wander through the woods,
no longer of the flock,
iridescent in sunlit patches
of privacy resumed.
In open woods on fallen leaves
unhidden by long grasses,
a pheasant hen tests her mate.
When he gets too close she strolls away,
when she gets too far he races after her,
twinkles his legs like a sanderling
races the waves up the beach.
She plays it cool, he plays the fool
lost in the surge of spring.
Hold the mirror of nature to the human face.
Our animal cousins are not humans, of course, and we should
not impose human values and attributes upon them. But happily,
our kinship is often clear in their behavior. When we observe
carefully, we ruefully recognize ourselves in others and
shake our heads with a smile.