A day of rain to race a host
of new pale threads
through fallen oak wood,
A day of sun to raise a host
of mini-mushrooms bright
from shadowed rifts,
each a dome that lifts
into a parasol whose ribs
edge round like a starched
A day of Fall to whisk a leaf
of russet near to conjure
Time’s robe and hood
to mark the season’s end.
As leaves paint the spectrum in trees,
it converges and shoots into sky
even as showers fall.
Maples and oaks, butternut,
basswood and birch,
a palette complete but for blues
rendered gently by sky.
A pair of kestrels ride a bare aspen.
The bird above greets the new arrival,
who bows. Kestrels bow, I think,
to say “bonded, belonging, pleased.”
Maybe I just want to be charmed.
Cynics might say it means submission; Descartes might have said, means nothing—an automaton’s tick; young men may say, “She’s begging for something.” But I, of course, am right, because it’s my poem, and because they are falcons.
Living sagebrush grows from a cleft in lava blocks
that laid waste this place in eons gone.
This tough little sage is old too for its kind,
ekes out life with dew and rain that lava sips.
Lines in the sage trunk are edged like the faces
of gaunt farmers of this parched land.
How is this sage so arresting? Like our elders,
the sage stuck life out until worn into its power.
The rugged land here is in the Owens Valley of California.
In fall wind’s bluster, a migrant bluebird
decides not to fly for awhile. Sky
is grayed in, but his blues shine spectrum-wide.
He puts his backside against the wind,
accepts scruffled feathers.
For now, he sits in a hawthorn and inspects
the mown path for grasshopper leaps,
fuel for cold hours of flight this night.
A maple leaf sails into a seedhead
symmetrically aglow with autumn light,
seeds set out for winter birds
who will drop plenty to regrow.
The maple leaf will soon fall
to soil as chickadees feed,
where it will begin to release to soil
the minerals drawn up by hair-thin roots.
Praise now the casual artistry
of leaf and breeze and seed,
and all the ways it feeds—
spirits free and birds and living soil.
Wood ducks swim away from me
over waters submerged in autumn’s tapestry,
oaks for reds, and sumacs, maples;
willow yellows, and uphill, aspen gold;
greens of the yet unchanged.
Reflected lines descend, prisms stood on end.
Haughty wood drake gifts us his reflected head.
Each color bleeds into each, as all beings overlap in life.
Great crested flycatchers
hawk the pond as they pass south,
in air too chill for most winged bugs.
One bird appears on a near branch, abrupt.
She displays her yellow breast,
but wears yet no russet tail. New,
she is bright-eyed and beginning,
cocks her head most winsomely.
I wish for her warmer air, for flies
to lift from torpor throughout
her long migration south
and through her spring rebound.
A fire takes wing and lands so near
my breathing halts. It seems unafraid,
allows my camera close, stays put
as others peer and pass.
There is moisture here by Darwin Falls,
just above Death Valley.
Willows there, cottonwood, a bit of mud,
feathered tamarisk, shrubs, deep greens.
I watch and thank Prometheus
for this second gift of flame
that this time springs from wet.
This is the Flame Skimmer of the American West. Hot springs are the preferred habitat of the naiads (larvae).
A goldfinch nest,
built to birth the future,
a brief nursery, hid
within leaves on red stems,
woven of threads and spider silks,
almost a part of the shrub, knit by beak
for days while eggs grow in the womb.
Her mate feeds her while she sculpts.
In the last smoothing she rotates sitting,
beak high, so the curve of her breast
becomes the curve of the cup.
The threads she weaves are fibers she’s pulled from nettle, dogbane, hemp and vines.
An essential shape, the swan,
that enchanting curve of neck,
that assurance of repose,
a pose apt for autumn melancholy,
the bird mute until its death song.
All of the above belongs to us, not swan.
It paddles hard with wide black feet,
eating fast before winter and the flight.
Yet swan grace is as essential
as water reflecting blue.
In a field gone wild, a bouquet everlasting
persists long past bloom, crisp sepals
become ray flowers, disks plucked free of seed
by finch beaks become tanned moons
that rise from stems dove-gray and smooth.
The flowers survey the circle, offer their faces
to all comers: drying grass blades, brittle
stems of bergamot, the doe strolling
her morning path, a seedling sumac.
The lowest bud dried without opening,
its pale sepals still protecting petals.
The regret of summer lost
absolved by beauty unbroken.
The forest floor weaves now
a tapestry of the many colors emerged
from the green that grew them.
Aspen golds, yellows of birch,
rich oak russets and reds,
the final dun that outlasts winter,
all textured by time and veins and lit
by the sloped wide light of autumn
fallen through branches shorn.
The leaves just after leaf-fall are a superb second harvest for the eye.
Water flows over stones
all the shades of fall leaves,
the streambed a mirror of land
set beneath a bowl of sky
that blue distance of autumn, all
struck by this slant glory of sun.
Ripples wave, vibrations of water by wind.
Cattail leaves color the ripples
that touch them, that wobble
as they paint overlays on water.
These blues, these greens, these leaf browns
send waves through space to excite
cones in my retina and now yours
that persuade us of color,
and ring of relation.
“Vibrate” and “wave” both descend, we are told, from the Sanscrit root vi.
10.31.2008 Happy Halloween!
Black ruin his face:
nose burned away,
mouth melted closed,
he cannot speak,
but he can moan.
Deep in the dark hollows
of his sockets, something
like eyes has re-grown,
something wet that burns.
Born of fire’s red roar
he lives in silent shadows
where great trees rule.
He hides his scars behind ferns,
cannot bear eyes to fall on him.
People who live near
no longer dare hold Halloween,
for the tale is told and told
how some lonely pitying child
brought him a bag
and took him trick-or-treating
door to screaming door.
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