Touch-me-not is one name, but never
in this blossom season which invites
a million hummingbirds to find their joy deep within,
as they fly south ahead of torpor cold.
Later, jewelweed cries out to be touched,
when it dries seed, when it swaps names.
Touch the pod of touch-me-not and it pops
to scatter seed for yards.
I dream raccoons strolling through
a patch of ripened pods on a moonless night
on their way to probe the pond for crayfish.
But today fresh flowers bob an open invitation
to all with long and willing tongues,
or nectar seekers tiny enough to fit,
who may be shocked to find themselves
caught upon a ruby-throat’s nectar-sticky tongue.
Katydid visits new magic lilies.
At blossom bell, she folds
her antennae back and thrusts
her head into the gold cone
where nectar waits. When she emerges
her eyes are bright, long antennae forward,
and just below her forelimb knee, her ear
is open wide to listen later as
a suitor rasps his stutter
from a treetop or a mullein spike.
A spider web, a funnel.
A funnel-spider’s web
that wakes in me all the dark
holes in life I will not probe
not with mind, not with fingertip.
It is an article of child faith
that all dark holes are tenanted,
and old belief rises up again.
I shall trust it, I will trust it.
Shelob on any scale is fear.
Fascinating though, this funnel,
how it narrows going down
its few inches, narrows into dark,
where a hungry life waits
for the silken telegraph to tremble.
Again it’s dry as a weathered bone ,
and all life mirrors it.
Heat waves wobble all horizons.
Grasshoppers sound dry as
papers scraping pavement.
Some hoppers are burned rust,
here, one lands that seems
bleached steel gray
where she sits a flowerhead
gone seedy. Mirror chevrons
on her jumping legs point
the direction of each leap.
In this heat she is quick
to flee my shadow’s touch,
but not before I capture her
imago’s image in my magic box.
She is a club-horned grasshopper; the male has ‘clubs’ on his antennae tips, the female does not, so she is willy nilly, named a club-horn. Scientific gender-bending?
Every walk I take, Earth blossoms new.
Today she is a flower I never registered before,
glorious, but hiding in a wetland ditch.
Blossoms cluster crowded in a spike,
coral shot with scarlet,
each centered with a thick hooded style
curved into a a strangely sensual torus.
Two bright red tongues hang from one end
to flag down bees. I delight in
what flowers conjure up to seduce
animals with wings, and wish I had a pair.
This flower, I find, belongs to groundnut, a little vine known to indigenes and Euro-pioneers for its tasty, nutritious tuber
So one day you unfold all your petals,
which is not a simple thing.
Once the calyx falls away,
pressed across the center dome
are many petals, thick and folded
lengthwise, twice. First you teach
each petal to risk a backflip,
then you pump more water
to swell your petals to unfold.
You are open. Wow. You are beautiful.
Then the beetle comes.
Ironic twists are not exclusive to human lives.
Seven millimeters of candy-colored life
stands this morning on a basil leaf. It sports
yellow legs, a raccoon mask, and geometric
wing covers of red bands on blue.
Its thorax shield is elegantly medieval.
It looks right at home, but what is this exotic
doing in my garden? Looks tropical, of tree canopy
or coral reef. Not that it isn’t welcome. I am delighted.
But in Minnesota one is not sure one could merit
candy-colored insects, not with autumn coming on.
This living jewel is Graphocephala coccinea, the red and blue leafhopper. I suspect that in insect vision, it looks gray on gray.
Vines have found exuberance this year,
here three twine red and black and brown
around each other in a strong and flowered arch
that celebrates its self-support with tall green candles
of white flowers in an elder shape
that invites seekers to pass through.
The arch has always been a door. We exit one at birth and seek it over and again. Few invite as effectively as this floral arch of vines.
A bumblebee squeezes out of a turtlehead flower
she forced wide seconds ago.
The bumblebee in an intimate moment is alien—
hooked leg segments, coarse fur, even
the waxiness of pollen clinging to her leg.
Turtlehead too reveals—the stigma of its style
thrust out to catch pollen grains from hairy
bees, the orange glory of its tangled anthers.
Under the cool extended eye of the lens
we are aliens all. We see marvels more than
comfort likes, more than habit wishes to perceive.
Once again we fall off the edge of the world
and no garden breaks our fall.
Or is it that we lift from that edge
and fly into a world made new?
The poet John Keats said long ago, “The world is filled with wonderful things, waiting for our eyes to grow sharper.”
“Sharper” has arrived, complete with ambivalence.
Perched on a dead aspen,
crow backs into cold wind
and adds to it loud complaint.
Strong toes, sharp claws dig
into wood dried hard.
He will always find a podium.
Crow knows his task:
to give voice to all the grievances
of the quiet ones of Earth
that have no voice, or those
that dare not use it.
Crow could take shelter from cold gusts,
but for his task, ruffled feathers fit.
He gets hoarse sometimes.
No one can tell. It’s tough work,
but Crow complains supremely.
Crow is of course much too bright to accept such an arrangement, but takes pleasure in illusions.
Looks like an orange cloud
with mutant lobes, but it’s solid on an oak.
A fungus, and not a mushroom—no gills.
I would not care to meet this in the dark.
Halloween draws near. This fungus is
unforgettable, but I’m told that
chicken of the woods is edible
and savory. Just the tender bits.
So why must people say that
everything tastes like chicken?
Rattlesnake? Give me a break.
But chickens devolved from dinosaurs,
so maybe T-rex would taste like chicken.
Or duck, which does not.
This striking orange fungus
will not be tasted by this writer’s tongue.
Yes, I’m chicken.
You try it.
What’s it like?
Some of us look best in rain.
Marigold is one.
She gleams with textures wet
and a tempting wild at center
hardly visible in dry.
Such indented double petals
and such gleam of mary gold waits
for those who cherish light
on flowers wet between rich soaks.
Not much to late-summer air seeds
until they catch the light and eyes.
Tiny seeds release into the winds
to float upon thin vanes that point
360 round, and fill the space between
with even smaller barbs that link like
feather barbs, but with no beak to preen
them straight, so they curve and bend
in haphazard gusts of breeze.
Trusting air to disperse your seed is old
as plants on land with stems to reach
above the mosses and catch that willing wind,
and still today as new seeds
whirl toward their fates they gleam
in sunlight caught precisely in your eye.
A seedhead becomes art.
Its onion dome has lifted
from a cabochon of small gold flowers,
each become a red seed.
Where seeds have been plucked
away, a chocolate expanse
of textured raisin mouths
that offered seeds to birds
to plant another where.
The asymmetric gift
of seeds not yet spirited away:
a red snowcap on a peak that will melt
into the flight of finches
and balance life again.
In a pond a lilypad stem
makes a bow in tension’s shape.
The mirror completes the form.
We can’t know. Does it bow down,
resisting, or does it lift toward light?
All ends and begins, arching.
Earth’s simple condition.
The great blue heron flies in
and usurps the log
where green herons fish
and painted turtles bask.
He opens his wings wide. We all
know we are in ancient presence,
a being still half dinosaur.
As turtles head for the bottom,
green herons glare from bushes
Great blue has waked their dinosaurs,
but what wakes me is delight--
half giddy, half shudder-fear
of the small ape that long knew
herons hunt in trees.
In the presence of certain power, humans have for eons experienced a kind of holy fear, until now we sanctify certain other animals with our fear.
This slant Autumn light fills
with bright moments of surprise.
Today goldenrod leans into light
to offer seeds to the future, work
done, force drawn into roots.
The only life above ground now
sparks in the grub in the gall
lower on the goldenrod stem.
How light etches these dry heads
of many floats that will carry seed
on cold winds across snow until
it catches--to wait for thaw
and wet warm soil to thread
a white root down
and a green sprout up into
the new slant light of spring.
Autumn grays in beauty, yes, but promises rest and green.
Warblers on the move again,
they really never stop, for
they must fly to where quick eyes
see insect motion,
they never stop, really, for
they fly north to bear and raise their young,
fly south again as this pretty bird does now.
She’s a yellow-rumped, a name
inelegant for such grace
as she lent sky last night.
One moment she poses, I look up and she’s
snatched a bee from air--once
I could snatch a fly sometimes
in my hand with reflexes of the young,
but with a beak! A bee! – She crushes it
and smoothes it down her throat.
Fuel for now. Off she leaps
toward asters and more bees.
She is known as Myrtle warbler as well as the yellow-rumped warbler, but to sophisticated birders she is simply butter-butt.
I leave you to decide which name is most apt.
Ducks complain here and there, as ducks do.
Strong wind will hurl them south tonight.
Now all cattails curve, wind rakes the slough.
When the harrier sweeps low, one pass
lifts a thousand blue-winged teal driving hard
above the brush and channels low and fast,
for they are now Flock, one assembled being,
one mind to rely on ancient knowing for
two thousand miles—hawk shape means only flee.
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