This snow to welcome April is hard,
though soft wet and glued to every surface
by strong wind straight from the mouth of Boreas.
Twelve hours of slant soak just at freeze.
For moments, it is cotton candy pretty
stuck to seedheads—it is stuck to every surface
except the feathers of live birds, migrants
passing through toward tundra—
juncos and tree sparrows—migrants just
arrived at these their breeding grounds—
redwings, robins, and out back, sandhill cranes.
Through the storm I heard them high today.
They lifted me. But tonight this snow blows on,
into a winnowing of small birds as cold grows.
This is ancient, this spring cull, not ours,
but soft as falling birds, hard.
Our drifts of snow grow mandibles
to show that winter won’t let go
of his favored subjects of the North.
Storm has scissored spring again.
Woe is me and woe is us we cry
and cast scared eyes up to the skies.
It is not becoming to whine, but we have reverted to kind.
In morning after storm, a robin stands in an iced tree
wings drooped, untucked as if stunned,
but likely just warming feathers in sun.
It had a night that it will not remember,
a blessing of being bird.
Now to the problem of food not swallowed by snow.
How easily we read ourselves into others, and how important that we can empathize, even when we must rein in our assumptions.
A maple tree prepares to flower,
buds daily growing, petals finding shape.
Spring storm has coated them with ice.
This has happened to the maples
thousands of times. They adapt,
maple flower buds grow thick skins.
These petals will open bright
red flowers that glow sun, spill
pollen on the wind.
Flowering sometimes takes place only with an adapted skin.
Ice is almost out on the St. Croix
high with melt.
An ice finger points upstream
into the flow that carves it
from bank ice.
The river flows so strongly and sure
that the current barely ripples
mirrored trees, as if this oldest mirror
were cast glass.
The little skunk cabbage flower
has a power we don’t expect.
It melts ice and snow
as it pushes from frozen soil,
clears its own space for flowering.
It burns stored root starch, heats the air
inside its hood to make a chimney
that wafts its scent and pollen readiness
to every fly that finds carrion sweet.
I reach my finger in to touch
the yellow flowered spike, recoil
as if I have invaded privacy--
It is warm as mammal heat,
an exotic power I find awkward in
this first wildflower of spring.
This little arum, cousin to jack in the pulpit, can heat the air inside its hood some 35 degrees warmer than the air outside.
Arums are disconcerting to humans at times; they remind us of our bodies. A common British arum is called Lords & Ladies.
The other day, optimistic male chorus fogs
floated here in sun and sang.
But Spring had her tricksy song in mind,
Not Quite Yet, Boys, and poured her chorus down.
Such shapes thick snow can make:
in one snowfall replicate the
1939 World’s Fair Trylon and Perisphere--
frost boils for the sphere, cattail stems for obelisk.
I can’t remember that, could barely walk.
But later, a postage stamp in my book
yielded Mom’s breezy reply,
Oh, that’s the Trylon and the Perisphere.
Meanwhile far from reverie, small frogs
burrow under stems and slush and wait
among the rest of us.
Snowmelt freed pasture ,
loosed a spiral seed into my eyes.
This seed in its growing turned
three times slowly round its heart,
while flattening like an augur blade,
or an improbable stacked-edge spring
coiled to welcome its season.
Earth specializes in posing mysteries right under my unseeing eyes.
A scalloped edge of ice along a riverbank
contains the season serial, the edge of ice
curves in, curves out, makes points,
withholds, retains snow-bright where
it touches river as if to baptize it to Winter
yet again, but we know that green spears
are holding their own baptisms
in fonts of moist soil, saving themselves,
gracing summer in the spring.
As the season eases its grip, thawed
hunting spiders are quick to search
the floors of fields and woods for
other early risers from the sleep.
My shadow starts a young wolf spider
into that uncanny strobing run I shy from
but follow until it disappears by freezing,
going still on a patch of sand it may
sense as safe from probing eyes. Ah.
There. Cryptic colors, cryptic shapes
blend the wolf into its ground except
for shadow where it props on long legs,
poised to race away if I do not agree that
it has vanished from my eyes.
I would agree, were it not for the need
Spring grows in me for other sparks of life.
Skim ice grows in bas-relief on pond
shallows where thick ice was gone.
Jack Frost found a window wide last night
to work his art upon: ridges, arrows,
bayonets and feathers sharpen morning light.
A pond-side oak shrugged a leaf off into gravity,
which on sculpted ice gleams as if the sun
blesses leaf end as it did the greening.
A splash of color vibrates weathered grass
in this sun-soaked day of spring.
I fall instantly in love, for I see green
between orange wings, as if
this little flyer takes its cue from shoots
of green pushing through dark soil.
In my eye this moment, all is bright, undark.
An early heron enacts ice-out
hungry from night flights:
feed with sun, travel nights.
Nuptial plumage almost entire,
beak orange bright as yearning,
the great hunter stretches beyond ice
and toward the nest ahead.
Hyacinth pushes up ready for spring play,
unfolds herself seductively as Salome.
Emergence makes her color rise
as sap expands her cells
like wings of newborn butterflies.
Maple flowers opened to the sun today!
Ice went out on the pond today!
Spring peepers pierced sky,
wood frogs clattered within
the trills of chorus frogs,
Our hearts took leaps.
Finally, seventy degrees of warm.
Our skins liquid, each pore grinned.
Last ice, first flowered tree, but
when at sunset I zoom in on a maple twig
afire with petals, pollen and desire,
the first mosquito for its maiden drink
sucks nectar from a maple flower.
Irony is lost on mosquitoes, and probably on flowers, but not on biped mammals with soft skin. A day of rebirthed firsts, inclusively.
Sandhill crane hunts the field for fat and protein,
bugs for choice, seeds if not.
Snow and cold met her here when she flew in,
no insects stirred, buried seeds.
Her eye is bright with sun, her plumage is intense.
Soon nest is grown, two eggs laid,
her feathers streaked with clay she painted on
south to north across this land,
so as she incubates, crown tucked under wing,
she’ll not be spied by egg-hungry eyes.
Crocus folded for an inch of rain
and now in morning unwraps
to offer her stigma to bees again,
honey bees, for bumble bees
might tumble her petals down
to reach the nectar in the bowl.
Already under sun, her petal tips
thin, edge toward wilt,
the fate of flowers brief,
that can only open and offer,
hoping honey bees awake.
They holler so, these giant geese,
Beaks wide, pugnacious tongues
that assert dominion
as they loud-leap from the pond
to beat air directly overhead
into this hormone storm called spring.
Good Lord, they’re us!
How wise of bluebird to arrive
when leaf buds glow
but have not released green.
Bluebird hunts by eye,
and before leafout
every perch is grand
Small beetles flap across air
and when they land,
bluebird is right there.
Wild hepatica shrugs off clear-night cold,
keeps first things first: offerings
of nectar and innocent pollen that clings.
Wildflowers push up through dropped leaves
with the aplomb of eternities of rebirth.
Some arrive to light as aliens.
Coltsfoot’s red calyx holds the bud
with fingers nested in white hairs
that net and hold a bit of heat
toward the promise of tomorrow.
Through sleet and cold rain
hooded mergansers crash the pond
for rest and a hope for minnows.
Light shivers in color on cold water.
Her beauty is calm, marbled in storm light.
The drake is exotic, here black stripes on white,
there white on black. As he erects his hood
the feathers pivot on his golden eye,
always the center of his own ring.
Welcome turtle, up from mud
as winter mind dissolves in basking sun
that bakes the old blood warm
just as mud sluiced from turtle skin
when turtle’s lungs recalled that air
was up where the mirror undulates,
where sun burns yellow stripes on green
bright as any dream of spring.