Browneyed Susan begins her fuzzy bloom
by unwrapping her center dome
where seeds will grow.
Each petal is folded twice,
a bundled throw, alpaca soft.
Thorny green sepals project a star
around this opening as if to guard.
Inside an hour she opens wide, unrolls petals
whose bases curl like elegant tongues
that soon will offer nectar at their roots.
The flower of sprawling borage has her tricks.
She nods on her stem, pretends to be demure.
But when we go to our knees as she requires,
our eyes startle wide—a blessing in blue symmetry,
a perfection of color and form, its own shaped sky.
She is bold before her willing bees, and us on knees.
Her buds are all fuzz on the outside,
a calyx that to the eye forbids touch,
but these spines are fur-soft. When she opens,
five sepals offer a counterpoint star, dark against
the petals’ star of sky, spines halo bright.
The float of bull kelp
holds up long dancing fronds,
holds up a whole world
of life from urchins to lions,
lobsters to otters, abalone to starfish,
a dance of light-shift and shade
played against the surface mirror.
When a holdfast tears loose in storm,
the whole umbrella of fronds,
long yards of stem-stipe
topped with a shiny float
like its own oblong world, all drifts
or hurtles toward shore,
where in green shallows, float still buoys,
fronds dance, trying to grow, until tides
carry them all the way in, where
on sand bull kelp gifts to a new world
beach hoppers, crabs, and shorebirds’ beaks.
The mother teal seems to turn away
as her duckling festoons itself with lunch,
green sea lettuce draped over its neck,
a brown blade of algae over its eyes.
Mom has eight like this--
she is careworn but still elegant,
feathers patterned and precise .
Her duckling is so unruly new
it grows down and feathers mixed.
What is a mother to do?
A female flower spider is at bay
among worn wild bee balm.
An enormous monster has come close,
so large it blocks the sun.
She is not afraid.
She spreads wide two pairs of legs
to grasp and pull me to her fangs.
She sees me with two full rows of eyes.
I blot sun from day.
Why is she not afraid?
We fret our garden designs,
palette, proportions and balance.
These wild turkscap lilies don’t fret,
they know their orange and green
grace blue sky, know their recurved petals
reverse the tall blade curving to earth.
Five flowers find balance, three high, two low.
A rosette of five sharpened leaves
roots five stems, green flames uncurved
as the slow fires of green plants grow,
while above, knives of orange flame
flare up curves and rush in days to completion
flaunting their stamens and styles,
all the while random, embracing chance.
At low tide a juvenile crow
pokes about algae for tidbits.
But it is not all black, as supposed,
much of its plumage is brown
Black are crows, everyone knows,
omens of dark, crows, with a nose
for rabbit and raccoon road killed.
But crow begins brown,
and into gloss black
feather by feather it grows.
When it saturates black, it will know
and caw after caw will roll.
He scoffs at cooler August
nights that presage Autumn,
for he flies late into October.
He is new to breathing air, his husk
still hangs lucent on a stem.
A long wingless life aquatic,
ambush predator, now a shorter
second life dazzle-winged in air,
catching prey that flies and darts away.
This is the Yellow Legged Meadowhawk, probably a new male that has not begun to turn red. Also called the Autumn Meadowhawk.
A huge insect zooms into the car
and discovers the windshield is solid air.
I think at first a dragonfly, but wings wrong,
eyes are split, legs too strong.
Its hairs are stiff, uncouth, abdomen soft:
Two wings. A Fly. This size? A Robber Fly!
Bold predator of any prey who dares fly,
takes huge dragonflies, slams in like
a falcon on a dove. Has a sharp beak
between its eyes to paralyze and liquefy.
I pull over. I’ll scare it away. It stays.
Subtle is the northern pearly eye,
quiet, no colors bold warn of toxic taste,
rows of eye-spots on each wing set off
wander lines like tides on sand.
Above her dove-grey eyes
striped antennae rise, clubbed in soft gold.
On swamp milkweed flowers she perches,
intent, unwinds her spiral to dip
into sweet after sweet.
A treefrog has dressed herself
in yellow pollen sought and applied
in the throats of daylilies
where she hunted pollinators
while becoming one.
But this yellow does not become
her shade of green, and collides
with her black and golden eyes.
Look at her. She knows.
A young egret leaps and cups all the air
a bird can hold in a bell of five foot wings.
Neck muscles tense to fold in for a flight
that cumulus might camouflage, if this
elemental could blend with background,
could eyes not see bright wings that arrow light.
I wonder if the nectar tastes as sweet
when what life remains is days
for black swallowtail, stunning once,
moons of gold and blue
on wings of velvet black.
Sweet Joe Pye opens just in time
to nourish the return into the pool.
The time is right, for she flails
more than flies, wing edges chewed,
sections torn, scales worn away.
Her tiny caterpillars chew on parsley now,
or fennel, maybe dill--grow and molt and grow,
until it’s time to dissolve inside a chrysalis,
and over winter, transform into a being winged
and delicate who emerges gold and blue
on wings of velvet black, just in time for flowers.
Timothy was the grass of choice
to hold between your lips.
The flower stem pulls deliciously loose,
the heavy cylinder bobs becomingly,
and it lasts a good long while, tastes good,
but when I recall all the timothy
I held in lips, seeds elude my memory.
What boy thought about such things?
Spitting was important,
Grass didn’t flower,
grass seed came from stores.
Now the architecture of seed tree
and edgy seed liven my eyes,
and taste sweeter than memories.
Elegant as a zen scroll,
cedar waxwings hunt the willows
while flies abound, even as
their chosen berries darken toward ripe.
These three are fledglings,
still to pluck a berry from a bush
to swallow whole, still
to etch the berry seed with acids
and pass it back to soil
where it can sprout and grow
the subtle circle of community.
Black flashed with orange,
striped bright with yellow,
this insect strikes my eyes
as it saunters from the green
calyx of a hollyhock onto
the red petal veined in white.
I don’t know the name
we gave the type specimen
stuck on a pin somewhere.
Nor do I care. This being lives,
knows what it’s about, and climbs
the red trumpet of a flower.
A young heron in his first power
lands in a meadow that was pool
the drought has given back to sky.
A rude welcome to a great blue.
Weeks ago this bird had pinfeathers
on these wings now wide,
no black cap across his skull
that then rested on a neck
no longer than a human hand.
He still looks gangly young,
feet oversized, perhaps
too unafraid of this creature
capturing his image in pixels.
I hope he learns sufficient fear.
The fragile beauty of the young transcends species and creates connection.
Two juvenile egrets face-off
as if mirror twins:
You lookin’ at me?
Staredowns on a dead tree:
Hey! You lookin’ at me?
It is foolish to interpret our cousins’ behavior as if they were human, but sometimes it is irresistible. Juveniles of most species do share much. These two have just been kicked out of the nest, and must now feed their own hungers.
On low-tide sands rests a chunk of wave-tossed wood
riddled by teredos, shipworms, each hole
wonderfully round, bored true by slow revolving edges
of the two curved shells of a bivalve costumed as worm.
I am struck by pattern and direction, all these holes
bored vertical and parallel as if by a drill press,
small wood left between. Then I find delight, one groove
across the top bored at right angles to the rest.
Such a difference, this shell-scored hole bored crossways
to the beat of an ancient different drummer in the sea.
No being is truly predictable. Diversity abounds.
A great spangled fritillary feeds
on the late flower cluster of a milkweed.
Light shines through its wings, and points
up rows of crescent moons and full,
with forewing zigzags as of lightning gentled
by inclusion in backlit copper wings.
A frog ends a long leap
among clover and grass
where it belongs,
where its spots and stripes
and greens blend,
where strong legs sparked
by a black and golden eye
out-leaped the reaching hands
of centuries of boys.
A grass frog, here,
immersed in three-leaf clover.
He is suddenly rare as four.
Rana pipiens, leopard frog, for uncounted ages the most common North American frog, is now locally extinct in many places. Seeing one healthy is a fine gift.
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