Song sparrow holds a sudden dragonfly
A long while—he dies not swallow it,
does not crush it, for he wants the nestlings
to know the squirm of a live bug.
To catch dinner is not cruel, it is catching dinner.
Sparrow loves egg-fat dragonflies that time their
helter-skelter flights just when red mouths
in his nest gape wide and insist he hunt.
Dragonfly does not mourn wasted eggs.
Sparrow does not think about his loves,
or time, he is all bright-eyed with being.
Just above a shallow lake, dragons fill the air,
dragons zig and zagging everywhere.
They hunt for smaller flies, they defend place,
they mate and flying tandem, dip the female’s
abdomen and drop her eggs into the lake,
where hunters pick a spot and wait
to see her tail-tip pierce the mirror and surge
mouth wide—a sudden roil, bubbles,
ripples, and resumed placidity, as below
the turtle squeezes its eyes shut and swallows.
In fifty feet of shoreline, I counted fifteen turtles hanging from their nostrils, hoping for a dragonfly. A dragon filled with eggs is high quality protein, just what turtles need to grow their eggs. Life is transfer.
Green heron cannily arches her neck
as food moves in mudflat water.
In an instant her arrow will strike:
muscles tense, neck feathers fluffed,
toes curled in mud, neck a strung bow.
A vine trails over grasses and yarrow, herbs,
grows low, spreads wide instead of high.
First blooms unwrapped from bud
almost take flight:
Veins thread the blushed petal sail,
the tail is long where nectar seeps
for butterflies and long-tongued bees.
Clustered flowers hang, looking
as if surprised to “O” by opening, or as if
startled by their own joy, as children are
in moments quickly lost to memory.
Lathyrus sylvatica is a wilding pea also known as flat pea.
In that part of summer when all Earth gorges
and life thickens, voracious larvae
hatch and eat as all young beings must,
making skeletons of leaves.
Flea beetles have hatched a horde,
in an acre, millions. Were there few
their metallic blue might charm,
one or two, but I recoil. Sometimes
Nature is too thick--or do I shrink
from parallels, knowing seven billion
on a planet is Nature run amok?
Our gorging may end soon, our summer close.
Whatever you can,
Whatever you can’t,
Take a leaf from catbird,
Whatever you know,
Whatever you won’t,
Learn from the crane,
However you hunger
Hollow or scant,
Listen to the buzz ,
A tiny syrphid fly poses on the rim
of a pristine yarrow blossom plate.
This little guy in whiteface wears
the warning color stripes of wasps,
the gold rerun in legs and club antennae
that thrust from its white forehead
just as the gold stigma of each yarrow flower
Juts up to catch pollen from fuzzy bees.
Flower flies harmonize with what they eat.
Earth life is filled with correspondences
which are pure mystery. Delight in ambiguity.
The black-masked warbler sings
with joy of his dominion,
a proclamation of puissance
proven by the nestlings
hushed in the thicket
below the lichen branch where
masked yellowthroat proclaims.
Harebell is the blue of gentle sky,
the ovary is white and so the stigma,
between them blue again the style.
Five pointed petals fuse the corolla,
Five green points the calyx grows,
Five filaments lift anthers from the ovary,
But the stigma receives the pollen gift in three,
prelude to the three-part capsule of seed
pendant from the stem a ball Earth green.
Symmetries of three and five,
Similitudes of large and small,
low on Earth and in sky high.
Life hints at so much, teases
as above, so below,
so teaches us to cherish
what we will never truly know.
"What we observe is not nature itself, but nature exposed to our method of questioning." Werner Heisenberg
Green heron hunts from the beaver lodge,
strong feet grip a weathered log.
Long neck folded close
behind the fluffed russet ruff,
the hunter keeps his profile low.
His spear is long and dark
as the pupil of his eye--as quick
to strike as an iris shuts to light.
My response to the beauty of predators is so strong it makes me wonder.
This little looper lives on sweet daisy fleabane,
eats the ray flowers to the nub
where nectar meant for pollinators waits.
Fleabane has a hundred or so petals.
Suppose the caterpillar knows the game
and plays it: “Loves me, Loves me not.”
Suppose a daylong dinner of discovery,
leaves the suitor filled and growing,
sure his love is shared, even if he did not
ask the question with each eaten flower ray.
This little green inchworm stiffens into a mimic stem if disturbed. It will soon become a flower moth.
Tree frog basks the hours of light
pouring from the arch of heaven
upon an earthgreen arch of leaf
that sends strength into roots
that will arrow toward sky
that will take their turn to bask
in light poured from heaven’s arch.
The young enchant the eye.
Plant or animal, new growth
enters us signally, feeds hope.
We know the young are tender,
easy to wound, easy to eat.
Spellbound from our roots,
memories swim up
of being small and young,
and lift us into care.
The little wolf spider climbs a fern,
Looks up at me with several eyes,
the great threat hanging in her sky
looking down at her Cyclops eyed.
She seems willing to defend
against the looming giant
with his single shining Leica lens.
So I put the camera out of the way,
in case she knows the Odyssey.
Mama wood duck tells her ducklings to hurry,
there’s a man on the pond. Two were midway
through lunch, beaks covered with duckweed,
did not feel her fear, so she flew twenty feet,
left them to catch up. Their webs churned, she
gives them what for when they group behind her,
like mothers with feathers or fur learned to do
in times before time began to be reckoned.
Mother Nature is the nature of mothers.
A sudden bloom of micro-algae
washes on a bright beach
turned startling orange.
Green macro-alga on beach rocks
wonders if this is one of those times
in the tides of stones that tints all things.
The color is from the reproductive frenzy of a dinoflagellate micro-alga that is using up a sudden bonanza of some nutrient in the sea. They will soon perish, and only a base population invisibly remain. The sea quickly returns to its dynamic balance.
The ways of the flower are many,
as are the ways of the flies
that pretend to be bees
and act it all out, drink nectar,
carry pollen flower to flower,
wear colors of warning
in incredible patterns--
all but the hive, the dance
and the sting.
The flies of the flower
flee threat with quick wings
but are quick to return
to the bargain the flowers offered
long ago when flies were all plain,
nectar for carrying pollen,
colors to hide them from birds.
Now the ways of the flies are legion.
Sea ducks present to day
their golden eyes.
Sweet arcs of white
flow down edges of wings
and play half-moon
upon their faces
behind black beaks
that feed in Mukilteo Bay.
Head feathers erect
a black crest,
a forehead of nobility.
Barrows’s Goldeneye enhances the Pacific coast of North America.
A herring gull captures a gunnel fish
trapped in rock pools at low tide.
The fish is red and eel flat.
It coils and writhes with every
hooked clamp of beak.
Upon rich green
sea lettuce covered rocks,
under summer sun,
A golden beak, a wine-red fish,
the most ancient pageant plays.
At a mountain’s foot
in the Sauk River valley,
we find ghost pipe come to light
beneath huge Douglas firs.
Flowers push wax-white from soil,
free of green, of sunlight free.
It is born into light to flower,
petals curled, allure butterflies and bees
and in autumn, make seed.
There are ways to live without green,
but not for me, in deep dark
where ghost pipe feeds unseen.
Clever ghost pipe chemically tricks a fungus that is already partners with a tree (see mycohrizza) into thinking that ghost pipe is also a partner (symbiont), so the fungus will give it some of the food the tree makes. Ghost pipe, aka Indian pipe, is parasitic on a fungus. Seems upside down.
A young whitetail stops his flight
to look at me in curiosity, ears wide.
His antlers have recently begun,
thick with velvet, growing fast,
roots not yet forked.
I do not approach, he does not flee.
But I do flail my arm against deer flies,
as his white tail sweeps, ears flick
and skin shudders against same.
We are mammals rich with blood
which to procreate deer flies need--
a torment we share, but I get to retreat.
When later I look at my photo I see
centered between velvet antlers,
a perched deer fly, another by his eye,
as my hand sweeps my hair automatically.
After storm, lily anthers capture morning fire,
red rich pollen drying for bees
on their quest down-flower where sweet waits.
Raindrops play half-globes on each petal,
magnifying lenses proving purity.
The red stigma at center rides the style,
she is source and path to ovary,
she too owns sunrise fire.
A ruby-throat may hum its way to her
with pollen on its breast to gift her seeds,
or a great golden buzz of bumblebee.
A millipede curls up in forest duff
after rescue from my grandson’s hand.
Startling yellow teardrop commas
adorn each segment, as if to
pause each four-leg set, color
to warn of almond-fragrant cyanide
and blend its pattern into duff and hide
from some eyes, maybe, but not mine.
Yellow commas appeared long before us,
and long before monkey curiosity.
Maybe it worked against early birds,
for after all, a millipede is no worm.
An ancient English proverb: “The early bird catcheth the worm.”
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