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John Caddy
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John Caddy's
Morning EarthPoems
April 2002






Just up the road
a small aspen grows in
shade of ash and oak.
It is old, shade-stunted,
corrugated trunk.
It has yearned so
toward the sunlit roadway
that it unlovely bends and twists,
but today it is the best of trees:
It blooms. The first.
No head-spin scent of spring, these
flowers are all texture, tender
as deermouse ears and gray
but for the blush at base
of burgundy where bud caps rest,
and soon the bob of golden anthers.

Cones of softest fur to warm the eye toward spring.
How singletons do impress. So commonly do we only assign species/category and let be, until one being asserts self and insists, "I am not a them."


Iceout is a long wait,
the pond is thick, fresh snow white
It’s winter ’til you step outside.
Cardinals singe the air with passion's song,
redwings strut and swell
burnt orange epaulets
while claiming turf with song.
Migrant songbirds everywhere:
purple finches, northern downies,
redpolls headed to their birthing grounds.
No life here today speaks of ice,
this convocation testifies entirely to light
that's lingered into spring, and to verify,
running down and up, spiraling the trunk
of every other tree, squirrels
enact the history of tag.

It's cold, but like us, much life must get along with the philosophy of "as if." The length of daylight, the height of sun in sky, are all that can be allowed to matter at the moment.


The possum rakes frozen mud
beneath the feeder.
Her fur is the unlovely color of my mind
as I stand beneath a dingy sky
and stare at snow that will not sink to soil

until the tail high pheasant walks his cocky walk
up to the possum, swells his velvet russet breast,
leaps up to the seeds, breaks his fast
and breaks my stiff lips into smile.

I love the ways earth insists I get over my self. If we pay attention, our shadows are redeemed.


On the iced-over stream
that curves through marshes,
two large birds stand,
a great blue heron
and a Canada goose.
The goose looks up
as if expecting from gray sky.
The heron hunches
against cold wind, looks down
through walkable water, and perhaps
sees minnows beneath.


On my afternoon walk
returned catbirds mew,
and high above me nighthawks
ride scimitar wings and weave
their plaints. At dusk
a flock of large birds sweep the sky, skreeling.

Now at dawn obscured
by snowmelt trying to return
to sky but pressed down low,
birds cry out the fog, thin-voiced
chickadees, redwings, jays,
some loud cackler past the pond,
woodpeckers thump hollow wood,
dove-coos, sparrow chippers, all
the bright larynxes and beaks
redeemed from cold.

The cats are pacing up and down the house,
ladybirds and box elder bugs appear from hiding,
release is in the air but eerily, all is at the mercy of the fog.


Hard freeze again.
Mud will not embrace the foot,
pools are skinned.
No dawn chorus, only chickadee.
Only! What a tough little gift.
Yesterday the swans flew loud beneath
gray clouds in ragged skeins,
French horns wandering the scales.
The finger shapes on iced-in pools
begin to refract gold rising in clear sky.

This stubborn cold! Frost won't leave the soil; the crucible will not fire. Here in Minnesota we take cold personally; we suspect we do deserve it. And yes, we are the center of the universe.


April rain
Cats on windowsills
Four silent tails


The shallow pond across the road
tonight sings love songs to the sky,
which thunders back with light.
In flashy bolts instead of moon.

Little masked Don Juans
castanet their ladies fair while
raindrops plunk their heads
and bless their vibrant throats.

The masked lovers are wood frogs, who wear a bandit's mask, who have begun their explosive breeding (so called because it's over in a week), who love a thunderstorm, who are loud enough to be heard through drenching April rain.


All night the dark ponds sing
of love and spring and all
that ripples in our oldest brain,
the song from throats that swelled
high-pitched before thunder lizards
wore the crown, long before
they cocked their heads and wondered
at spring ponds that sing.

Frogsong likely is the ur-song, mother song that stirs up the porridge of our minds. What a marvel is the song of frog. The singers now are chorus frog and wood frog and for punctuation, the first spring peepers. How awful if we still these first singers.


Watch a mallard pair swim through ice
black and honeycombed by sun.
The ducks attack the small ice left
in the south end of the pond,
smash it in with wing and orange foot.
When they leave, a swath of water
testifies that icebreakers have been here.

I am enchanted when the cousins show some attitude. We get so busy categorizing that we commonly forget that the cousins are all singular. At 80 degrees, the ice quit yesterday, and now is but a quickly fading memory.


The big south wind of spring
surprises stubborn oak leaves
from young trees and whirls them across sky.
Long catkins torn from the aspen
cluster and sway in wind
on dark marsh water like seafloor worms
with feather gray gills
and shiny bud scale heads.
Waves of frogsong arrive on gusts
that flutter deer hairs
groomed by prickly ash. Up the hill
tall oaks rub against each other,
cry out and moan like lovers
ambushed by the spring.


Remnants of the thunderstorm
still dark, edge white with dawn.
The elf-cup fungus on the trail is all
rich coral but for the white edge
around the chalice lip.
Cock pheasant turns east,
rising sun burns his breast in bronze.
His white neck-ring defines light.
Two harriers hunt above the marsh,
female dark and large,
small mate bright.

All these dawning correspondences hint at meanings just beyond our ken. There is no logic to microcosm/macrocosm connections, but there they are, speaking of beauty and convergence of design.


At the outskirts of the cattails,
After winter's weight, sallow
grasses lie collapsed
on everything below, make
a map of time in deep relief.
Old tree trunks undulate in waves
slow as the sounds of their falling,
and where their bodies cross
waves of yellow grass rise up
as if currents collide.
Here and there stumps
break out of relief. Some carry
netted pods of wild cucumber vines
which with long new grass,
will swallow this topography in green.

How engaging transcience can be, how lovely mutability.


Grayed by falling April snow,
a dozen deer graze alfalfa
newly risen from deep roots,
race the snow to green.

Impatient snow fills and mounds
maple flower cups
like risen loaves, these
flowers whose buds
swelled so long in patient red.

In the morning dragonfly is stunned,
little fliers who live lie quietly
in cracks of bark, while
phoebe flicks his tail,
calls and calls upon the sun.

What is there to say? Snow covers everything and clings. It is pretty but has lost all charm. It is a wrongness. Migrant warblers starve quickly after flight. Still, tough little ducks are bowing to their mates upon the pond.


When I heard winnowing first
I thought the owls had gone ethereal,
couldn’t tell if this were voice or instrument
dopplering across the sky.

It’s one of those lovely spring–male-”Look-at-Me” things,
this winnowing of snipe:
To winnow grain is to toss it into wind
to separate the seed from chaff,
to separate worthy from unfit,
or “to blow on” as a breeze winnows grasslands.

Male snipe toss themselves into sky early spring mornings,
or late in spring evenings, choosing dusk
to play with their wings on the wind,
to wheel broadly over a marsh where below
beautiful females wait and listen and decide.
The males beat wings fast and fast
and suddenly dive a long low dive while

stiffening the vanes of their wings
into Aeolian harps to make the enchantment
we call winnowing.
It enchants us and the large-eyed females down in the marsh.
Five or six males may compete at once,
to winnow the best from the rest,
or one alone may bless dawn with his feather harping.

Winnowing is almost a strumming, almost a song—
fuguing somewhere between woo and wow
across the changing sky.

When you hear it, it hums in you like the mystery
that hummed inside you as a kid—the marvel
of a sudden dip of cool air that washed you
when you walked down a warm evening road—
when somehow everything could happen
in the presence of summer and the absence of fear.


The pond is twilight dark and still,
lobed oak leaves everywhere afloat.
Raindrops begin to dimple water
as I crest the hill above the pond
and startle the great horned owl
into flight silent as the falling sun.
Soon round moon will
gleam owl wings
and cast a shadow warning.

In moonlight owls must approach their prey from the right direction, else their shadows will arrive just before them. Athena's shield and Diana's moon fuse strangely here.


Four great egrets land against a wind
that roars even in trees just blushing green.
As they scoop their wings to slow and turn,
sunlight catches and glows
lapped feathers of mother of pearl.

They land in cattails, stand quiet, hunched,
necks cocked, hunting frogs.
I forget them for an hour, when
white explosion into sky, all egrets up!

Then the eagle makes another pass
and starts up mallards and wood ducks
who panic nesting geese and everywhere
large birds splash blue sky.

Adrenaline moments--why are they so thrilling to see? They stir up every feeling, especially following great beauty. They poke the root lizard at the base of the brain. The eagle, as is common, left hungry.


The clock spins backwards,
lovely May will dance
in drear November gray.
Wet snow falls again, all day, all night
on April's ravished garlands.

Bloodroot and trout lily, local Protestants,
know this snow is personal, dare not unfold.
Snowdrops struggle to be seen,
crocus sprawl deflated, this isn't right.

Tulips question the very point of opening,
thin green seedlings of all kinds
want to hide again inside
and neither germinate nor hope,
while lush narcissus, wishing for a mirror,
hangs her head and mopes,
but chiondoxa lifts cold blue stars
and cries, "I am the glory of the snow."

I just went outside and read this to three crows. They liked it. Doggerel is the last refuge of the poet. Or, doggerel and the world laughs with you, weep and you weep alone.


In the dark just outside my window
something rushes up an oak like
a furry urgent inchworm, front legs first,
then the rear pulls humping up,
a pause, and out of sight.Raccoon? Must be.
The tail is shorter in the dark, unringed.
What's up the tree? Only
a place he hasn't been.In half a minute here he is again
with a different gait, smoothly
walking headfirst down the tree,
down the tree he has now seen,
down and out of sight.

Dark fills every night with animals intent on what we cannot see. This is their time, so many furry cousins gather light with big round eyes. Eyes have shone in firelight here these ten thousand years.










Copyright © 2004 John Caddy