A green heron walks a fallen trunk
before tall cattail fans.
These shapes made somehow new,
of green and brown and blue,
these colors of serenity
sparked by a lively golden eye
sink into mine and call up thanks
for this odd intense busyness we call life
and all the gifts lives share.
So much green in overhanging leaves
they paint the flowing stream.
Moss on stones, algae, seedlings
of doomed jewelweed,
a few dropped maple leaves, all
so lush with burgeoned chlorophyll
that even falling water praises green.
On a leaf of twisted stalk
a bluet damselfly lights and rests
above the shadowed forest floor,
enticing light to invent
fluorescence once again.
This is the Familiar Bluet, a much better name than Ordinary Bluet, which this spectacular being might have been stuck with.
On a day of strong winds lashing fields,
a tiny lynx spider takes refuge in an unopened bloom
of daisy fleabane, but as the day blows on,
fleabane’s upright petals flatten out and expose him
to the force of air that bends fleabane
to the limits of its stem and exposes him
to the hungry eyes of beings with sharp beaks
and beings that sting little spiders to sleep
and carefully lay on them one egg each.
But neither flower nor spider know any of this,
which leaves them free to go about their business.
The widow skimmer looks out for love
while he sparks it in my eyes.
Such a feast for hearts our Earth provides,
this healing beauty tendered endlessly,
usually unseen by those eyes most in need.
This widow skimmer male dragonfly rests while being entirely alert to the possibility of a female flying by. Should he see her, he’ll be after her quick as a wink.
On a glacial boulder river-rolled and smoothed
four lichens grow as they have grown
for twice a hundred years or more,
each divided from its sisters by a line of dark
where competition ends and the commons starts.
Fungal hyphae delve dense granite rock, slip
between crystals to find minerals to dissolve
and send up to algae basked in light
to send in turn downstream the sweets
it makes from light. One time a spore of moss
landed where three lichens joined, a spot
roughed up a bit. The moss grows and greens,
lifts an inch or two toward light, and counts
on the rush of mountain snowmelt to submerge
and soak its boulder every spring.
These small lives are wise, they find a solid spot,
bind themselves to it, learn when to grow
and when to wait through dry and estivate.
Showy Ladyslippers are in bloom
everywhere they hide, many
in hidden fens and spagnum bogs,
and bogs where yarded deer
have browsed an opening for light.
Today these bold ladies open beauty
by their hundreds in a roadside ditch
you will never find. They are all dressed up
to lure small black bees into slippers,
the tongue’s gold bee-guide a beacon.
Once inside, the lady has her way with them.
After they lap their nectar treat
The bees blunder and buzz about until
she lets them out a different door,
where she dusts the bees with pollen gold
to share with her ladyslipper sisters.
These lovelies do not long survive where human hands can reach them. These orchids are among the finest mysteries of the Mother.
The great spangled fritillary blesses light
by letting it shine through his wings,
pick out a fringe on each forewing
and brushed fur from wing to abdomen.
Crescent moons ride his sunset orange
as he sips nectar from the ray flowers
of a cluster of little forest suns.
Orange he dances forest eyes,
and so intent he is, he spangles orange
to the very tips of his antennae.
A flower fly laps nectar
as it pollinates yarrow.
From the flower fly view
yarrow blossoms exist
for sweet nectar to lap.
Yarrow flowers insist
that flower flies exist
to carry pollen
yarrow to sister yarrow,
to help them renew.
It is most fitting
that both views are true,
for as each kind came to be
they co-evolved paths
that led to seeds and to eggs
to answer the other kind’s needs.
Many kinds of flies have evolved the same reciprocity with flowers that developed with bees. The media ignore flower fly pollinators, even amid all the colony-collapse hoopla, because as everyone knows, flies are icky and no doubt evil.
A sandhill crane waits on alert
as a tree swallow banks a tight curve.
The small bird tries to harass
the huge bird into departing
the swallow’s defended territory.
The crane stays put, disappears
his head into tall grass, going after
seeds and grasshopper nymphs
still tender and green. Food first.
One swallow does not move a crane,
but both find familiarity
in their ancient connection.
In shallows unstirred by breeze
three egrets reflect as they seek
small bullheads and frogs
in a pond become a paddy.
My hand sculpts these forms in air,
finds tall calm and curls fingers
in the tension of the hunters,
grateful but aware
these are forms
not meant for touch.
A large twelve spotted skimmer
lights up as if each molecule of white
is excited by sunlight to fluoresce.
He presents himself to other males
with this visible assertion of turf defense,
and to females buzzing by
in case they wish to dally with
a dragonfly lord of power and puissance.
“Putting yourself out there” as a strategy for success was introduced several hundred million years ago.
A small katydid nymph enters
the great red throat of a daylily.
The nymph’s long antennae have
sensed the golden pollen
offered to Earth only for this day.
The katydid child must climb
tall anthers to eat the golden prize.
We continue the old story:
A child enters the wild lands
in quest of gold. In the green
he is invisible. Suddenly,
against red, our green child
can be entirely seen, easy
pickings for giant chickadees
with wet black boulder eyes
and beaks of terror.
Let’s say birds have fed well today,
and in this cello light of afternoon,
doze replete in the tops of oaks, so
none see this plump tidbit
bright green on a petal of blood.
Say our katydid on quest does
leap high, does eat all the rich gold
pollen that will fit, so he does molt
and grow to live camouflaged
within safe high leaves and strum
night songs against the edges of his wings
to green females who rustle in leaves
as they approach his song.
Make it so.
Miniature sundews offer treats to eager flies.
Dew drops of the sun gleam on tentacle tips
that surround each round green leaf,
sweet cheats that slowly
close around winged bodies to digest.
On the left, near a glued and emptied fly shell,
a coil the shape and hue of a maidenhair fern’s
fiddlehead reaches toward light to bestow
a spike of sundew flowers on its source.
How light does glow these pretty spheres,
how innocent these thread-fine stems that slowly
curl like time-lapse creatures of the sea.
Insectivore plants live in bog habitats that offer poor nutrition to rooted inhabitants. Meals of flies provide essential nitrates. These roundleaf sundews of boreal bogs are less than one inch tall except for the flower spike.
A hummingbird moth savors nectar
from the rays of daisy fleabane.
it drinks on the fly, hovers on
clear-windowed wings that beat
so fast my eye cannot resolve them.
As it hovers from flower to flower
the moth touches two weightless feet
to petals to orient its long tube tongue.
Rich brown fur lures me to see
a small mammal in its charm.
Black eyes in a proper head
complete the mimicry. But these
black antennae, solid as if inked,
flavor this curious being with
the quirked appeal of Pluto’s ears.
Clouds, blue sky, wild roses
grace a reflecting lily pad pool.
Above white clouds the roses climb
in beauty’s calm, relished within
the hum of wild bees and the dry wing
rattle of engaging dragonflies.
I discover once again how Earth
teaches us to recognize ourselves.
In one blink of my laggard eye,
the green heron sees a wriggle
in duckweed, thrusts her beak
and comes up with a minnow,
nimble prestidigitator on
the thrust stage of a fallen tree--
applause held until the nest.
A whirligig beetle draws a life trajectory
that feels familiar as Chicken Little,
but the beetle reflects not on society ,
just tries to avoid being some mouth’s meal.
Whirligig whips round so fast that the central
circles carved out of light and pond
are originals, not yet ripple-mirrors.
A choir of prairie coneflowers clothed in gold
swing back and forth as they sing the wind
made by the fire that glows their dancing robes.
Born of one root, green wiry stems dip and bend
then bounce upright like votives offered to the light,
flame and shadow sway in candled songs of life.
Ferns gather sunbeams on the pinewoods floor,
bounce light to the silks of a huge orb web
between trees. Spider silk is not there
after dew returns to air, until it touches skin.
I cock my head this way, that, to see the whole,
but gleam of silk is fugitive against green.
Wider than my stretched arms, this lovely snare
emerged from spinnerets and agile legs last night.
Now in a silk-folded leaf the spinner waits,
one hind leg hooked to the web she wove,
until fine vibration wakes from sleep the Fate
that dances down the web to snip a thread.
Mother Rosebreast brings the last-hatched
of her brood to the feeder where
it demands to be fed, “Now-Now-Now!”
while Mother shells a sunflower seed
with her large and practiced beak.
Soon, begging will no longer work,
wide mouths are not long stuffed with seeds.
She will invite her demanding brood to leave.
If they persist, she will chase them through the trees.
Rose-breasted grosbeaks, like most birds, have an intriguing solution to this universal parental problem. Dad feeds them too, and in time, chases them off as required. The young will soon die in migration if not totally self-sufficient in the few weeks left.
A small orchid lifts from the boreal bog,
floats in low afternoon light.
Petals hover like a butterfly impossibly stilled.
This whole carefree flower form says “Rise,”
and spirit does. On its stem, three buds
prepare to add their voiced shapes
to their sister’s invitation. ”All rise.”
Note: Calopogon pulchellus or Calopogon tuberosus
Is called the grass pink, which hardly does it justice, but refers to its single grasslike leaf.
Orchids all invent unique methods to have their way with bees.
Calopogon lures a bumblebee to land on its pollen-laden upper petal. This furry weight swings the petal down to put the bee in touch with the projecting stigma below.
Brand spanking new, a yellow lady beetle
climbs out from her split larval husk
and explores her leaf.
A second birth, a second Earth
of new tastes, smells, antennae.
Velcro feet, clear eyes, and soon
she will stretch wings and fly.
No. That’s me. She is not thrilled.
Her brain’s nothing like mine,
she has no mind.
She simply, perfectly is.
Black eyespots on her vacant husk
are poignant as a ghost mask
discarded after Carnival.
top of page
Go to Archives