The great snapper is not in her mind,
she is held in ancient time,
captive of her eggs being laid.
Smooth spheres plop one by one
from under her tail into the dark hole
she gouged into the gravel road.
One huge leg stretches out behind
in slow primeval strength.
She sees me, but I am of small
consequence. I keep my distance
from the mystery never mine.
Red squirrel nibbles a maple seed
as he stands feet braced
on the base of the mother tree.
Forepaw fingers rotate his meal
with a pianist’s dexterity.
Red fur, gray fur, white, fuse
to beguile me back into the delight
of daring red fingers pulling peanuts
out of my pocket to flee up the red pine
from my small boy giggles and wriggles.
Three River Jewelwings contest place
just above the St. Croix river flow
as male damselflies are obliged.
They whirl in flashing circles so fast
afterimage is all I really see.
One breaks off and flies to shore,
homes on a broad blade just above water.
His neon abdomen glares in bright sun
as he flicks his four dark-tipped wings.
When the season rides us, it is hard to rest.
A wood anemone opens to
a flower longhorn beetle
that wants her pollen even
before her petals are spread.
They are both the youth of Earth in
endless rehearsal within the sacred circle.
Fly Agaric lights the forest floor
with a beacon for fly kind.
As she matures, her body dishes to
concave, and after rain tonight,
flies will taste her power on the breeze,
come to drink, and stupify, and die.
It’s a story tribal elders may have told
around a fire ten thousand years ago,
to lesson kids: “Beware of snares
and illusions.There’s no free lunch.”
How much spiky brush will she have to push
through before her fur feels plush again?
She took her kits for a cooling swim
against this heat and muggy air.
Her eyes stare at me in reproach,
a female caught with scraggy hair.
I point out I am no voyeur, but she huffs,
turns her back and waddles off.
Great Spangled Fritillary returns
to milkweed for sweet nectar.
Her coil tongue probes pink flower
after flower, five cups to sip on each.
Her tongue is precise, plumbs each cup
in the same order every time
before the first of the flower next in line.
Somewhere in her genes she knows
the nectar cups will refill, so back
she flies to siphon sweet again.
A Virgin Tiger Moth captures light
in her furred lattice of black and cream
surrounded by white haired leaves.
A forewing shows a birdbeak strike
that reveals some hindwing fringe.
I wonder at her startled wings.
They bring to mind a textile print,
a bold dare, to mislead darting eyes
and still be cryptic on a forest floor.
An electric-green bee probes
a magenta thistle for nectar.
Calyx spikes surround the petal crown.
its need for thorn defines the thistle.
On one perches the zebra-striped bee.
Not stiff, not sharp, these thorns
deter mammal herbivores who learn,
like us, through sharpened eyes.
The snowberry clearwing moth
hovers silently before each flower,
never lands but braces to feed
with two front legs, thin tongue
sipping in and out of nectar pockets.
So quickly the flit from flower to flower,
plant to plant, my eyes play tricks.
His mimic yellow fur and black
name him bumblebee moth.
This trick protects from bird attack.
The branching stems of a red alga
are rich blood against green ulva folds
in a sunny tidepool at low tide.
Chance and flow conspire
to amaze this mammal eye
with this vignette vivant, no doubt
presented countless times before
for whatever eyes had learned
to truly see and widen at the sight.
A sunflower sea star waits
to be enveloped by flow
on its sand and eelgrass bed.
On its down side, hundreds
of tube feet like thin white
tentacles with a single sucker tip
extend to probe sand.
Were you a sunflower star, why might
you go for such an ebullient orange?
The moment of emergence is a marvel,
that instant in life’s flow when
a living being opens to the Earth.
I watch the little daisy fleabane flowers
begin to stretch their hundred petals
in what seems to be confusion
but will soon sort out to reveal
a perfect flower platter, gold disk
of true flowers surrounded by their host
of petal rays, no longer blushing pink
but now a pure white secure in its debut.
Chalkfront Corporal dragonfly
exists in substance and in shadow
on a weathered timber under summer sun.
Light imprints each vein of wing and even—get this-
amber at the wing roots, color in a shadow!
The powder blue of corporal stripes
is lost in black but the dragon
gains a newly narrow neck.
Shadow legs blend blacks
in substance and
in shadow play.
Three pollinators seek dandelion nectar.
The bee or wasp on top has four wings,
a white face, an intricate pattern in
amber and black that looks as if
it mimics syrphid flower flies which
in turn mimic bees and wasps.
The circles of life are dizzying.
The little band-winged meadowhawk
offers me amber through doubled wings
on a dry willow above my head.
Bright sun silhouettes his body.
A patch of old willow stems offers a stage
for males of two small meadowhawk kinds
to present themselves to females,
who then decide who poses most prettily
and best chases off competing males.
It bewilders eyes as he flutters madly
through a knapweed patch, this huge
swallowtail that will not still its wings.
Six legs lightly touch each flower as it sips,
barely felt caresses of a lover flutter winged,
each leg pollen powdered as it pollinates
in a blur of beating wings and probing tongue.
How insouciant his clubbed antennae
and those sunstruck black-bordered tails.
Fly agaric mushrooms push into sight
between the roots of their own balsam fir,
the picture of intimacy.
They have been married forever.
The fungus swirls through soil,
expands tree roots ten times,
dissolves minerals, gifts water.
They are together forever.
From its needles,the balsam flows sugars
down to nurture the partner. Once
each year, they shine together in light,
offer cones and spores to the forest so
they can stay together forever.
The little Halloween Pennant
perches high upon a willow tip.
He is new and strong, available.
He knows that females who
see his honeyed pennant waving
may find him worthy of their eggs.
He knows that other males
may try to take his high perch.
When another male dives at our hero
with a crisp wing-clack, ours snaps back
without letting go and watches his attacker
flounder off into the purgatory all males know.
The monarch caterpillar today
is wonderfully clad in stripes
of yellow, black and white,
and adorned with two jet sets of
wiggly horns--one set decoys--
and the coup of haute couture:
Each of six true legs and
eight of ten prolegs are kitted out
in white spats, elegant
as ever top-hatted Fred Astaire.
Lady Ruby Meadowhawk
surveys her newborn world
with huge bicolored eyes
that seek fast flight
going by, from zippy flies
to tempting Ruby males.
She darts like lightning,
electric on the wing as
was her nymphal mouth
in the ambush waters
of her long first quickening.
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