the tense arch
of the silk-splash seed
that lingers for a breeze
to sweep it off
to somewhere soil
with just enough wet
for its being to become:
carry what I need
to cherish for this moment
Glory falls from the tree
one day it carries every dream
a sun could dream,
then night-calm cold pinches free
the stems of leaves.
Next day a golden tapestry
enshrines the maple tree’s dark trunk.
Still under sun the glory’s gold,
returned to cloak the soil
and feed small lives through cold
while they reclaim the gold
that journeyed up through root
and trunk and branch
to bud and green and grow the tree
until cold leaves turn glorious
as any ancient beaten gold,
and fall so Earth can fold leaves
back into her soil, rich and slow.
After a night at twenty degrees,
full sun returns a micro-moth to life.
As I shiver, this tough little life
spirals up from leaves,
catches light and my eyes,
and wobbles down to a bed
of oak and maple leaves.
It find it perched on the red stem
of a maple leaf, open to the sun.
All six thin legs grasp the stem tip
as it clings to one more day of light.
The moth is tiny, drab gray, but close up
light picks out the fine fringe on
the edges of wings, a touch
of elegance that charms much as
its kohl expanded eyes.
The mantra of its clustered feet:
“Bless the sun and hold, hang on.”
Blue sky pretends to be calm water, where
stalks feathers snow white, beak sharp black,
gold lores from beak to burning eye,
a golden foot lifted by a black & gold leg.
Winged white as angels, this bird wears golden feet.
Bound to walk those golden streets.
Breeze tickles for a moment
small feathers on the snowy egret’s tail,
as if to say, like the Roman General’s
chariot slave at his Triumph,
whispering in his ear,
“Memento Mori.” “Memento Mori.”
“Remember you are mortal.”
A red oak sapling dances
leaves against north wind
above the river St. Croix,
blue beneath bright sun.
The oak child cherishes its leaves,
and will not let them go
to beautify the blue with mortal fire
and downstream flow.
Maybe later, when their red
has gone flat brown, and sap
has plummeted to roots
embracing winter rock.
A hole in the bark of a birch log
that wind and time and gravity
have prettied for the end of days:
Red leaf, tan leaf, gray ,
leaf of dying green.
Curled leaf with spine,
and down in almost dark,
reaching green of moss.
Around the hole, years of bark
topography, weathered in layers
like the limestone cliff just behind
raised high above its birth-bed sea,
high above the St. Croix flow
that slowly etched it free.
On the shadow side of outcrop rocks, shade
rules until Sol rides West and low.
Shafts of bright pick out small ferns,
still green but disheveled from cold nights.
A spray of grass stems arches green,
some stems umber in death, still tense.
Wind has released wide russet leaves
to punctuate the spectrum of the season.
In a dark niche, a heart shape lanterns green,
the heart contrived of a brown leaf’s point,
but in this season bittersweet
we pull inside all the hearts we find.
A photo mirrors autumn
mirrored in a woodland pool.
A green stem of narrow leaves creates
the surface above reflections of oaks.
Reflecting here suggests a delving
deep inside the mind, a reminiscence
of old shared memory, hints of trackless snow,
bare silhouettes of brush against
the wall of ice, the milky braided river
rushing from beneath, carrying sands
and the knock of stones rolling round.
Leaves fall as if to sweep a curtain open
on the goose bumps of this naked ape.
If there is regression in this mirroring
of mirrors, it may not be infinite, but
it is old, and, though splendid, cold.
For Tamsyn and Griffyn, my shining grandkids
Once upon a time, a Bittersweet vine grew red berries inside a papery husk. One sunny day, the husk split open, and each papery part folded upward like lifted wings cupped as if to leave, or as if to land. The uncovered berries found delight
in sudden sunlight, woke up, and shone bright. One berry (Let’s call her Merry) looked up and saw that she had orangey wings, cupped as if to leave, or as if to land. Just then, Merry the Bittersweet berry felt one wing tremble in a puff of wind, and said to the other Bittersweet berries, “Hey Guys, I think I can fly, or at least try.”
So Merry the Bittersweet berry did try. She searched inside herself for wing muscles, but only found some hard round things that felt important, because all the rest of her was soft. To move the wings above her head Merry tried to squeeze, even went “UUUH!” to show how hard she tried, but no wing even trembled. “Oh, poop!” said Merry the Bittersweet berry, “Now I will never fly!” Just then, in that very moment, a blue jay’s beak plucked Merry right off the vine. And before she was swallowed, she knew she was flying, and thought “Wow!”
Then, sadly, Merry the Bittersweet berry became food, but not quite all of her became food. Those little hard round important things passed through the happy blue jay, and took a great fall back to soil, and one day in sun bright, a little Bittersweet vine woke up and thought, “Cool. Life is sweet.”
The moral: Take the bitter with the sweet.
A wonder at ankle-height
drops me to my knees,
a spray of berries electric blue
small as BBs I once knew.
Another step would have
crushed them into brown-leaf soil,
I’d not have received this gift of new.
Two hide behind dry mini-fern.
Surprise is Earth’s profligate gift,
she knows that once we lifted on two feet,
we’d miss much that we once knew.
Kneeling meets a will to see.
But the Child inside has no patience
for such mental nattering.
He schemes to hang these tiny berries
on a mini-Christmas tree.
Frost crystals grow long on a leaf
of the stubborn honeysuckle vine,
which plans still a spray of trumpets
red with yellow fire inside, to refuse
winter in this budded space, rich
with intention to create a kind of grace,
a beauty that cold cannot penetrate.
Old Winter, though, has other eyes,
and with a flick of wand, makes ice
appear from nowhere or thin air,
and grow until crystals catch the
rising sun, and shine in still dawn.
Cold has beauty, but is merciless.
I find grace in buds and stubbornness.
“Who you calling brown?”
This so-called Brown Pelican insists
that she really is a blonde, but yes,
she admits, her eyes are brown not blue.
So what? She is gorgeous on sea green, she knows.
Her wings spread gray and black, elegant
neck pure white to set off her blonde pate,
but she objects to the appellation “brown,”
for brown is what her children are
when they are ungainly large but not mature,
and known to act foolishly, unlike
herself at that age, she is quite sure.
After the flush of reds and golds
has fled the trees and fallen leaves,
the autumn eye seeks color in the small,
down low in the sphagnum bog,
where the ancient lives of still green moss
surround pale green pixie cups.
The eye is struck by matchstick lichen red,
the color that satisfies a relict hunger,
perhaps for red-ripe berries
far down the backalong when
what fed our eyes was plucked
and popped into our hungry mouths
to chew the sweetness of our bright Earth.
Far below the cliff where my feet sing fear,
a single cormorant flies across a vast forest of kelp.
The bird is but a mote on the rolling face of sea,
and though I am high, in this presence I shrink.
I am ever smaller than I think.
I envy this bird its practical brain:
fish, water, sky, rock and sun to wing-dry,
family for roost. Without ego, that vise
that clamps our minds, It cares not for size.
I would like to fly, and dive for fish, feel
them wriggle down my long throat, glad,
and fly across kelp forests, knowing
there will be a rock, and clan, wings wide.
Where a trunk interrupts the pool
ice crystals grow outward from the axis
in rays to all directions like the rays of light
we see compassing the star afire above,
and drilling down through clouds
in angled shafts. That crystal ice
should call up the very spokes of fire
we glorify is either strange or certain
in this universe of irony and laws of form.
A jelly fungus fruits in Autumn
from a long-soft log of birch,
where yesterday or the day before
were only green moss, brown leaves.
Last night’s cold fed the jelly’s thirst
as frost melted into sun and fungal flesh
more like rubber than Jell-O.
The jelly sculpts fluted entrances,
amber and translucent cave-mouths
that invite entrance to small beings.
So much is scale and similitude.
I hear faint strains of opera.
Is this pelican yawning, as must we all,
or giving a stuck fish a last chance to fall?
This pelican’s pouch down the center is seamed
with a bungee elastic as dreams.
Or is this wonderful bird called pelican
suggesting the truth of the rhyme
that his beak can hold more than his belly can.
In the bog called muskeg,
tangled in dead leatherleaf stems,
a pitcher plant, for autumn turned red.
Hungry teeth have bitten off chunks
of the pitcher plant’s spout, where
fine slippery hairs, white now with age,
point down to slide ants to their doom.
Is this the politics of food? Hmm.
An herbivore eats the spout
of a late carnivore gone maroon.
How abstract words do push things away!
A late wood frog crouches in tired grass
where her last leap left her
in hope she has vanished from sight,
but it’s her gold-on-black eye
that centers her domino mask,
the bright tension that thrums
between eye and hind legs
primed to leap farther,
that compel me still.
She eats now for winter,
store food to survive
the cold sleep under leaves,
where her closed eyes
will freeze hard as black glass
under her domino mask.
Earth knows now our fear,
for we are one.
Skim ice crystallizes still waters,
and tomorrow, day
will not slump ice to liquid.
So Earth turns her images
to remind us of what will roll around.
On my knees I admire the gift—
a raspberry leaf still Fall red,
thorn cane the same, alive, two buds
swell, all but opening,
white as pussy willow spring.
Green waits inside.
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