Three swans glide across the pool
like notes from a white cello,
They clamber onto a muskrat house
and begin to vigorously preen, anoint
each feather with oil, long
black beaks push and wiggle everywhere.
Small feathers fall into rippling water and sail.
Three heads move on the ends of swan necks
that seem separate lives, that curve
and coil like quick round snakes,
now a sweet curve, now ambiguous, repellent.
One swan stands on one black foot,
stretches the other straight back
to aid the beak nibbles of the preen.
The cello smiles.
It’s hard to keep grace going sometimes. Expectations are a burden. Turn them into smiles.
Three great white pelicans leap up
from the reedbed of rest,
the center bird a trifle slow.
The bird before, the bird behind:
only splashes of their leaving.
Metaphor is everywhere. Wild Earth offers us the images we need of learning and of healing. These gigantic birds spread wings nine feet; they are splashes.
Lonely is the feeling human as the blue heron
rides the top branch of the Douglas fir
as sky begins to pink the cumulus.
Lonely, and that part of sadness that
grows with set of sun, with end of day.
But what goes on inside the heron high?
Not lonely; communion of the herons is a season,
then spread out to fishing grounds. Nor sadness,
for blue heron is not blessed with metaphor.
It may be weary. It may enjoy the taste a shining
fish left inside its throat—it wiped the scales from bill to cones.
Heron likely feels nothing we can know.
But we, confronted by this great tall heron that cannot know
that it and tree and sky this day are beautiful, do
blend our lonely and our grief with beauty and are joyed.
We walk among the old ones, conscious of their gravity.
These redwoods have lumbered from a story told
to children about beanstalks and giants in the sky.
It is moist where the redwoods stalk the ocean,
and we look down to what brushes oddly at our shoes.
It’s old equisetum, horsetail, out of dioramas at museums
where in giant form it companied the treeferns,
back when two-foot dragonflies rattled wings against
horsetail’s glassy stems now long since coal.
My neck creaks when I look up a redwood. I grow old,
my feet in horsetails. How completely young of me.
We are ephemera in the presence of the ancients, but we balk at being humbled. Time we learned.
In the stained-light world beneath the redwoods
a lion shapes downed wood as if
Pleistocene returned, lifts from Earth.
There is no curve like cat throat.
My ginger hand strokes mossmane. Say
throat-skin stretches for release. Then
my question is become,
“Who does this summoning?”
Say the redwoods call the lion,
and why not? They do have cause.
Experience is strange in this new millennium. Or perhaps we are more prepared to notice how strange it’s always been.
We all are fawns sometimes,
awkward and alone.
Unsure is fawn, legs too long, ears
tilting to each sound.
A swirl of leaf will start a run,
but back the fawn will come,
sniff the leaves and learn
not everything that moves will harm.
Remember knobby knees?
Fawn will have no memories
of mirrors never seen.
Fawn still wakes within us when
we fear for all the gangly young.
Most of us feel this empathy for all the mammal young. Those who don’t are somewhere incomplete, not whole. Sorrow for them; they are wolves without a pack, and yearn.
Mist refuses light, these
fine spheres so lately sea.
If driftwood dreams, light
and lifting are its memories.
Mist and driftwood,
sister, brother to the ocean beach,
endless, without boundary,
earthwide they speak to human hearts
of what is almost known, of
drift and light and dream.
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