A monarch butterfly beats and beats his wings
against the spiderweb but can’t break loose.
Sun through his caught wings may have once
birthed stained glass, but I don’t take the time,
my fingers reach out and pluck him free.
Instantly he flies off, a silk strand on my palm.
I try to mind my own affairs. Everyone must eat.
There was no thought here. My hand saw a choice
and rescued beauty, but left the main web intact.
I’m sure my hand would know to do the same again.
A widow skimmer in his prime
relishes the sun as he waits
for dinner to fly careless by,
a fat beetle, a fitful butterfly.
Perched high upon an aspen twig
this flier owns the summer sky
except for kestrel and phoebe
and every beak that savors dragonfly.
Left behind wide sky,
a worn widow skimmer
rests his beak-torn wings,
his forewing color thinned,
his old blues powdered
like a catch in a dry throat.
Down to earth at last.
Neon blue flashes have lately sparked
low underbrush by the riverside.
Today one flash got hooked up, found
a damselfly girl with blue genes
who let his blue spark kindle hers.
He guards her now against sneaky males
so the eggs she is about to release
are blessed by his endowment alone.
A fully opened daisy fleabane
makes a perfect sun with myriad rays,
but the blurred adolescents opening
behind, engage my heart.
They have that klutziness I loathed
when I fell up the stairs and laughed.
That becoming we all stumbled through
wakes with the sight of petals trying
to become open flowers, like kids trying
to pull on sweaters with three sleeves.
Viceroy butterfly on edge, ready
to instantly leap and flutter by.
It knows that beauty is vulnerable
and desired, but also knows its mimicry
of monarch may keep it safe while
showing consummate good taste
as it sips the nectar of oregano.
A pretty knapweed flower
draws the sweet tongue
of a pretty syrphid flower fly
who lives well within its mimicry
of a little wasp with a big punch.
River Jewelwing pauses in his mate quest
to rest on a green curve of grass
so I can ponder his fluorescent green
and the way light paints even the shadows
of his dainty legs with green to match.
She crawled out of her skin fourteen times.
This time on wings she discovers sky.
Still close to the floating pad
she crawled out on to be reborn
she is wing-dried and prepared to use
her fine new jaws on those who fly
instead of waiting for a meal to swim by.
In a few weeks she will notice that Others
with her blue eyes have noticed her
and fly at her, and all will change once again.
Terrapin Lake near shore grows
arrowheads, and their flowers
dance now in blue shallows
as wind strengthens stems.
Water mirrors wind where
each green stem rises, draws
circles of interference patterns
around the tops of stem-shadows
angle-tangled in my eyes.
So tri-petaled flowers blithely
ignore all but the bugs that fly
to them for food and give a bit of
botanical love on the side.
Nor wind nor water, only seeds
at this pollination moment, matter.
A barn swallow surveys his territory
hyperalert to insects that fly
but catching his breath rather than
hawking them out of the sky.
Life and need crescendos now.
Cool nights signal a surge
of sweetsad getting-ready,
of pushing fledglings to fly,
fattening them out of the nest
so they can migrate and survive.
Little clams foot their trails across a river shallows.
They know nothing of us—blessed ignorance.
When I was small I watched them glide inch
by sedate inch across the lake bed off the dock.
They seemed faster than the caddis fly kids
dragging stick houses across streambed sand.
How could I have had time for such childish idling?
All these lives: Was my fascination idle or idyllic?
Note: “Were I to hold the truth in my hand, I would
let it go for the positive joy of seeking.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson
The giant swallowtail confronts a gusty wind
by never standing on the sweet flower
of marsh milkweed, trusts beating wings
to keep its straw in the nectar pool.
Precision wingbeats all through the meal.
His foot claws touch flowers for balance
but do not grasp. He is afloat but looks
about to land and be for birds an easy prey.
Side light and shadow rouse
the eye to see texture
fingertips find exciting.
These veins on the reverse
of arrowhead leaves carry
only hinted by the bland front.
A fledgling cardinal girl
sits at the sunflower feeder.
She flutters both wings to beg as
she has since she cracked her egg.
Dad flies in, grabs a black seed,
shells it and shoves it down her throat.
Flies off abruptly as arrived.
She vibrates both wings again
to beg as she has since
she cracked and shucked her egg.
Grabs up her own black seed,
shucks it and swallows.
Next day at the feeder
red Dad flies in too.
Wings flutter to see
if she will be fed.
Dad shells and eats a seed.
Flies off. So
without a wing tremor
she grabs a black seed.
Shell-bits drop. She will be fed.
New England Asters rise tall again
nectar loaded in each ray floret.
After warming from night’s chill
butterflies and bumble bees ascend
with morning into a new blue heaven.
Pretty mullein flowers now top the tall spike
that next year will perch dragonflies.
The flowers are cramped for room, petals bent.
Maximum occupancy is mullein’s rule,
as if a city planner had a hand in its design.
On ready buds, each petal owns its sepal sheath.
In the National Pharmacopeia, way back when:
Eat the soft flowers to cure your cough
or mash them up to feed your skin.
Country girls rubbed the fuzzy leaf on cheeks.
With a glance and a grin, they called it Quaker rouge.
When boneset blooms, the paper wasp is bold.
How her legs embrace the opened buds,
How both shepherd-hook antennae
embrace the white flower,
How the antennae must thrill with pure aroma,
so intimately pressed they are.
After first freeze,
from blue sky or twilight
birds will drop down
to plunder bright fruit
of highbush cranberry
to fuel the long flight south.
Highbush seeds will then rain
on wetland and field,
a few will take hold.
Mother Highbush will smile,
migrants will smile,
the long pattern will thrive.
A raspberry cane offers
the arc of a life and its end.
Leaves burnt in sun,
the oldest dropped.
The cane’s curve down seeks soil.
No way to ease or redeem.
The green whole here surges.
The circle turns.
Note: Earth’s gifts include lessoning.
Walking next the railroad track
I brush against a wildflower,
rush of licorice.
Taste flowers, taste leaves,
Mmmm. All parts fragrant.
Anise hyssop beguiles me.
Burnt tree trunks reveal much I want to see
with my pattern-seeking eyes.
A burnt warrior stands in the green,
topknot to sharp chin (nose lost)
down to ragged ribcage still trying to inhale.
Fire pares form to essence
so quickly old sculptor Wind just gasps.
Laetiporus fungus emerges
orange from forest shade
to pour in stepped cascades
down the trunk of the oak
it felled with brown rot.
Note: This fruit is the edible chicken-of-the-woods, or sulphur shelf.
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