An acorn falls from its oak
and comes to rest on char
burnished by autumn light.
The moment is full: death,
new life and hope, perfect
shingled cap, plump
curve of fruit, the entire
mystery of birth and death,
beauty and renewal.
The Mother is not subtle
here, a clout upside the head
with heavy hand:
Time you got this, people!
Sunlight and shadow play with a stone.
A grass stem standard holds two curved blades
imprinted on stone wept in glacier melt,
ephemeral grass, stubborn stone.
In this strong low sun
shapes that do not exist in round
happen as curved grass blades flatten,
this trick the way of all shadows.
Earth beneath the fallen leaves is old,
elders here hug soil, firstborn on land
liverwort, whose skin seems to predict
the skins of smooth snakes and skinks.
Moss, second-born, lifts to light with
the grace of weak stems arced to gravity.
A cast leaf of last-born flowered tree
Joins its elders to return quickly to soil,
netted by slugs or land snails
as ancestral algae were thinned
By snail tongues of the sea.
Lizards are philosophers,
spend whole seasons pondering
the infrared radiance of sun.
This Zebra-tail is a Taoist.
Deserts can encourage that.
His face is calm--while a smile lurks
in the wide corners of his mouth,
his broad stance speaks
of strength with acceptance.
He does what needs doing,
runs the Way with tail curled high.
As the Cold begins, spirit and flesh seek haven.
From Shire or fairy tale, a den dug
in the gnarled roots of an oak beckons.
Before giving birth, a vixen
dug this den deep to nurture her kits.
Later they left. But in the cold months
foxes take refuge, go home again.
They will find they must share,
for the hollows and runs below
are already refuge for garter snake,
toad, cottontail, raccoon or skunk.
If wishes should win, add
an old poet, who found a way to fit.
Movement in the trees
is for few birds now.
Life slows in growing cold,
but until all is ice, water flows
and shimmies over fallen leaves.
Current grows its ripples
and shifts liquid lozenges
in a play of light that jewels every curve.
The play bewilders eyes.
One clear window in the flow
shows an oak leaf tattered brown,
dissolving in a current quick,
releasing yet again the minerals
pulled up by roots from grit
dissolved by deeper streams.
Blood laughs, knowing it has flowed
this course itself for the turnings of forever.
I see faces in the water,
eyes and hollow cheeks
formed by what rides below.
The substance changes constantly,
here and gone in flow.
The forms persist,
the faces and the hollows,
birth and birth again
within the nonstop flow.
The metaphor is O.
Form is the illusion. Life substance is all shared as the eternal circles roll.
Shrike surveys the desert she so well fits,
perched upon a yucca with leaves
stiff and sharp as knives.
The fine hook of her beak
dances up and down cats claw stems.
She looks out for prey,
lizard or ground squirrel,
grasshopper when sun’s at full burn.
Desert is hard.
Shrike has a hook but no talons
so long spines of diamond cholla
hold her prey firm as she tears.
Hawks and owls have talons adept at handling and carrying prey. Shrike is a songbird that became a hunter. Her beak, large head and neck muscles adapted to killing and carrying, but not her feet. So she filled her need with behavior. She spikes her kill onto thorns.
As I explore the bristlecone grove,
a bit of green glows in a midden of cones,
finds sun at 11,000 feet,
a pine seedling in the midst of Methuselahs
time-wracked on the mountain.
I am torn wide by the promise, a child
who could open and stretch
and abide dry mountain winds
for thousands of years.
The ancestors live.
The parent of this child
grew green needles as the Pharaoh Cheops
watched his tomb climb the sky.
A red oak leaf
zigzags side to side
to a windless pond
that reflects autumn sky.
The leaf rides sharp points,
curves its belly to catch
even whispers of breeze
so to keep moving
now that it’s finally free.
Sense that sweet tension where water meets leaf.
Weeks after the egrets have flown,
I startle to see that one
left a marked impress on the pond.
Between the arms of an ice compass
rides the ghost head
and curved neck of a great egret.
I wonder if under oak leaves below
sleeping frogs are dreaming of beaks.
(Just before frost takes the land.)
In my busybody hand he is cold dry,
supple and strong. I decide once again
to keep my monkey hands to myself.
Grounded again, tiger salamander
hurries through grass
seeking his burrow for winter,
his blunt head a spade for delving,
eyes closed, small legs stubborn.
If he has not yet dug his den,
or borrowed one abandoned,
there is just time. He lives within Now,
will not recall my hand.
Just days ago the micro-jungle reveled
on the forest floor.
In days since, the green moss has faltered,
struck by frost and first flakes.
But stalks and capsules stand.
They have plans.
Spores will mature, stalks spring
toward breeze with snowmelt.
Capsules wait for dry, pop their tops
and spores push into air. Some
catch in moist soil and soon
the micro-jungle revels green again.
Say these leaves feel just like us
as our flesh remembers cold,
that ingrained knowing that
we do not belong here, where
fingertips favor the bleach of snow,
We shrink and shiver in these
awakened memories. Say that veins
like the curled backs of leaves
ridge our skins as we try
to pump hot blood
to the edges of our flesh.
Say we hang in our acclimation like
these pale leaves trembling in mid-air
on thin stems that want only to let go.
His Majesty is wary, tilts head and eyes
all directions before and after
each open-beaked stab.
The great Pileated Woodpecker
clamps pine with his claws,
braces tail against feeder
as he chisels frozen suet
to burn against the cold.
Ice locks around cattails.
Say ice is the memory of water,
and its play.
Where shore ice grows around a rock
memory finds faces,
one a woman aghast at cruelty.
She wants to melt away,
lose her crystal eyes.
The other face absurd, a comic nose,
big ears, nearsighted button eyes.
Say water's memory is clear,
shows our buffoonery,
knows our grief.
Pussy willows are confused.
No less am I.
Catkins in this cold must die.
Earth is topsy-turvy.
No less are we.
Icy fingers reach to fill a hole,
take on the shapes of cartoon hands
--those white gloves Mickey wearsÑ
crystal forms worn smooth
by lapping lake, pushed by wind
that rolls waves beneath thin ice.
Lake surges up, ebbs down just enough
to shadow edge ice on the surface.
Ice feels more friendly with softly rounded edges
instead of crystal sharps.
Just before frost, winterberries
affirm color in light
as their stems catch and hold
dead pine needles that
join the berries as if to show
each is within the other.
Bright as a berry, life is round.
Fresh pond ice becomes a night sky
of methane bubble stars, a host
of bright round tiny travelers
surprised in their wish
to leave the earth behind, with
some larger galaxies caught whole,
burning some, some cold,
held in time like a Hubble photograph.
As above, so below.
Methane is swamp gas released by decay. Most leaves water quite invisibly; larger bubbles break the water surface, except in winter, when the gas is held for general release in spring, like Paul Bunyan's frozen hollers.
Go to Archives