A ripe aspen catkin falls into
a bed of moist spring moss,
there to drop its seeds.
When ripe, they let go,
these furred caterpillars
that a month ago were
grown into hope
fallen from the sky.
From the bright, trees fall
across the mirror pond
as a pair of bluewinged teal
and a mallard drake cross
the rippling illusion.
The males take the lead,
as they do. Lady teal
may sense in her secret wisdom
that the snapping turtle,
after its long sleep,
may pull down the first.
Each takes, as Aristotle knew,
according to its nature.
Dutchman’s breeches are in flower
with white hollow petals more like wings
than trousers dangling from a line.
Bumblebees and ants partner with this plant,
long-tongued bee to pollinate,
ant to carry off the seed to plant in galleries
and eat the treat grown on seed’s end.
Beauty in these angel wings, beauty
in their three-part reciprocity.
How intimately lives are intertwined. If we but grasped that for ourselves.
Kingfisher has flown up the curve of Earth
to hunt from other arcs Earth grew.
Ice is out, minnows wink silver
as they turn in this great turning
of our year about the sun.
Kingfisher could not care less.
She intends the curve
a small fish draws
held in her hard beak.
Seedlings germinate in moss,
begin red, find sun,
turn green to feed this need
to lift above moss that was its cradle
long ago when plants invented roots
and vessels, stems, and even wood
to tower over lowly moss,
whose moist swaddling fostered
those tentative first seeds
that grew in time to cast long shadows
over moss, as they do still. We all
claim to outgrow our swaddling moss
as these red infants will.
When seeds meant for wind
spill from pods
sprung wide for spring
after long dark,
and meet sun expanding
each silk filament into light,
joy pours through me like
that instant a seed pierces soil.
She is at first demure, and shy,
petals long, concealing.
Then the season grows, and now
the whole glade of lilies hums
for nectar and for seed, for now
white trout lily lifts her skirts for bees.
Eight hairy legs and pedipalps agleam
greet me on the windshield as I slide into the car,
a host of arachnid elbows and angles except
the oblong abdomen.
Each poised part is haloed bright against blue.
I am curious about the spider’s underside,
but intense shadow contains the spider privacy.
I don’t want to drive away.
Wind would tear it from the glass
and the spider become an instant ball
of hard legs
surrounding soft that would land rolling to a stop,
when shortly one leg would unfold,
uncover eyes and soon the rest—but
the spider suddenly dashes down the glass
and leaps to sandy earth as if it cared to hear
no more of my musing.
Was it the part about wind?
One small rue anemone
paints a flower arch across the forest floor,
each bloom summoned to be open
as in turn, our spring eyes.
I will not rue this flower curve:
tight bud to chalice opening to sprawl in sun.
Such grace has sprung above brown leaves.
A painted turtle paddles the pond,
hunting and gulping invisible food,
swimming mites of daphnia
or copepods I can’t perceive
from human distance,
but turtle can see close-up, open
and capture with a small inrush of pond,
mouth wide just under wide-set eyes.
Lives thrive in sunlit shallows, now
that turtles are awake, lives of every size.
I hope winter shrunk his stomach
so he has a chance of feeling satisfied.
The bittern ignores us
once it takes its camo stance.
It is not here, does not exist,
is just another plant, or stub of stump.
It sees us as we photograph,
it has fine heron eyes,
but knows ours can’t find him
where it stands and hides.
The confidence of deep time
keeps bittern safe unless it moves
and springs into the hunter’s eye,
coyote, fox, or even mink.
Until then bittern stands in camouflage,
breathing small. It will not blink.
Warm May day.
All we animals take the welcome sun.
One hibernated as a caterpillar,
long and fuzzy black.
It scurries across crushed rock,
glints of red within the black.
Up close, I see not fur but spines
like sea urchins bristling bright,
and between rows smooth red rings.
Truly, I will never understand a thing.
What adaptive value could red rings have for a black caterpillar? Life is beautiful mysteries.
The mirror of mudflats
in drawn-down pools reflects
a sense of spring serene.
But that is my gloss, not the life
of the yellowlegs sandpiper
who probes without pause
all day for food
to fuel the flight far north,
to build strong eggs.
Small romance here.
The serenity of this morning
mirror is mine and real,
a coupling of now and time
beyond man, the bond of water gleam
and dipping bird, of spirit ease.
Bluebells present papery trumpets
with the flair of dancers in breeze:
a fanfare in blue
from the heart of soil,
silent now but will resound
in this red heart
long after leaf and flower
have withdrawn to dark
to await again spring sun.
The Canada goose family
swims a choppy pool,
hard for hatchling legs.
The lead parent pulls his neck
into a rattler’s strike stance,
ready to defend five balls
of golden fluff against
this earth of hunger.
Both keep goslings bunched
against the eagle and the hawk,
but the snapper swims below
small webbed feet
pushing water fast
as muscle can contract.
Not all can live. Hard fact.
But that S-curved neck
will give hunger here a match.
A young swan spreads her wings as if
to welcome spring and wild exuberance.
Swan wings are what old masters eyed
to dream of painting seraphim, so closely
they do echo human ardor for the heavens.
Ah, those dreams.
Her companion wears a human collar.
Ah, those dreams.
Catbird sums it up:
After the storm,
find a perch,
fluff up to dry,
open your beak and sing.
Was ever a form more shaped for flight
than this avian arrow we call barn swallow?
His beak is short but opens wide
to engulf little fliers that
cannot evade this grace of sky.
Eggs are in the nests now, plastered
in corners where beams cross, so
soon bright swallow eyes will hunt
through every daylight hour.
Even worn to a parental nub,
barn swallow will wear his elegant
tux with tails, steel blue above,
russet down the breast.
Yellow headed blackbirds
delight Northern swamps again,
and hope to delight mates.
A male cocks his head,
swells up in challenge at another,
enacts an imperative
flowing in his blood.
A cowbird male
sees hackles rise, takes off.
The other yellow-head
does not take the bait, keeps
his feathers smooth and flat,
walks on across the grass.
Moments of challenge between males occur always and forever among the vertebrates. These are difficult to ignore.
I should not debase these ducks
by seeing them like us.
But there it is: Mother Nature
does hold up her mirror.
A pair of canvasbacks look
at each other in a way that
recalls much of the human
and turns my face all grin.
The male: red-eyed stern.
the female: eye-ring suggests shock
at the male’s obtuse red head,
pretty though it be.
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