Nature

Contents
The Arrival of Autumn
The Bleak and Wild Desolate Shore
Blue
Butterflies
The Early Reaper
Fog’s Soliloquy
Mayfly
Music in Winter
Once More into the Void
The Prairie in Winter

The River to a Trout
Robins
A Rural Autumn
Silence

Summer Grasslands
Three Sea Haikus

Water
Wildfire
Winter Portrait


The Arrival of Autumn
At the end of summer when the honey drips from the comb,
when the tall grasses wave in the warm gentle breeze,
and the orchards that lie north of the farmsteader’s home
are rich with apples that hang heavy from the trees,
then the shadows begin to lengthen in the southern sun
which sets over a heartland of fields and rolling hills.
And folk feel in their bones that autumn has begun,
a time of black and scarlet leaves, brisker winds, and chills.
It is a time of fog. A time of mists among dells and valleys,
when gourds and pumpkins ripen among the pastures,
and streams flow swift, cold, and clear along the rocky alleys.
Then comes the time for hot tea, woolgathering, and a peaceful book.
Then comes the time when the black cat, its eyes like gold sparked jewels,
leaps from the wooden fencepost, and, with penetrating look,
pads across the tufted grass, past the penned up cows and mules,
on to some destination, secret or lazy or otherwise.
The days grow shorter and dimmer,
until the heavens are lit by starry orbs and the lush moonrise,
and all the earth is silvered by their fair shimmer.


The Bleak and Wild Desolate Shore
Along the very tip of the Olympic Peninsula—
harbored by sea stacks,
washed by the ablutions of frequent rain,
and scrutinized by the salmon-keen eyes of fierce eagles
who sit perched with feathers made wet and salty by ocean spray—
lies a beach spliced by piney evergreens and the wintry Pacific Ocean.

It wears as its mantle a cloak of becoming fog:
wide filaments of thick mist wreathe the beach’s shoulders,
narrow wisps tuck into the crevices of teeming pine,
and, like a stole, that pale brume softly embraces
the necks of the majesterial, protruding stones.
The beach’s curvaceous, serene form lies upon its side
with its back to the land, knees tucked up against the tide,
with its stone lips ever kissing the briny, icy waves.
Water is its heart. In the rain, in the sea and spume,
throbs the lifeforce that begets the beach’s growth and decay,
shapes its projecting stone fingers, and creates its austere beauty.

In the night, the wan moon with its grey craters
beams down on sword ferns glowing nearly phosphorescent
and flashes on the bottle-gold eyes of great horned owls.
The moon turns milky the evergreen forest that adorns
the beach’s hips, and the moon tints the bleached driftwood
from day’s ivory to an iridescent alabaster of night.
That moon casts upon the beach’s cliffs a lustre
that speaks of shining rock, and, with its hushing silence,
it seems to make the surf’s voice boom.
With wind, the beach’s trees move sinuously and with susurrant song.
In the moonlight, upon the beach’s damp and footless shore,
lie whips of bull kelp, washed up and drying,
with algae blades like Medusa’s chaotic hair, their origins
in the marine forests of stone mantlepieces and rocky shelves.

The crows cackle madly in their rookery, the wind whishes,
surf roars, eagles scream, seals honk and bark and cry,
clouds morph then rework their hues, tides ebb and rise,
marshy mushrooms rise and rot with the sun’s circling,
the fragrance of evergreen sap freshens the air, salmon run,
gulls bed their island colonies with bones, osprey preen and fish,
glossy baneberries bear fruit like murderous scarlet pearls,
and purple mountain saxifrage color the cliffs.

In antiquity, the Makah resided here
using yarrow for childbirth, red cedar for dugout canoes,
yellow cedar for clothing, spermaceti for candles,
stones buffed by water to high polish and wound
by withy willows for anchor stones, having halibut for dinner,
sea otter teeth and whale fins for art, cherry bark for basketry
which tightens as it dries, and bones for awls and adze handles.
They used tides and stones and fences to catch fish,
laid white clam shells on the tidal floor for better contrast
to see the fish in their traps. On a crisp, windy spring night
six hundred years ago, the tribe gathered on the damp beach
after partaking in a feast of salmon, octupus, and halibut
for a sacred ritual conducted to send its rowers and harpooners offshore
in a twelve-seater canoe to hunt whale. A chief chanted,
sang, worked the crowd into a frenzy before the night fire,
and when the throng felt most animated, the chief
poured whale oil onto the fire, so that it soared, crackling to
a crescendo, rose like the wave of a tsunami, and
in the dark night the bellowing and shrieking
of the Makah were swallowed up by the forest.

Over this desolate beach there is a kind of peacefulness:
gently lapping waves, the soft pattern of rain,
the rustle of a crow’s wings. It appears desolate, Shi Shi,
here in winter.


Blue
Along Malaysia’s white sand lies a cerulean ocean,
blue until the water touches the blue sky.

Endless blue: water speared by luminous scales of fish blue;
shoreline women stating fashion, blue silk against brown skin;

and the wiry blue line on the fishing reel: long-sleeve, thin
white shirt, rod held swaying over water on a cobalt night.

Along beaches, at restaurants, folks hawk blue,
so even the paper lanterns glowing yellow seem sapphire.

Night and day stumble blue, snagged between purple and green,
and the sun moon tides roll between cerulean and steel-grey blue,

their waves flecked with white foam,
and even that white tinged ultramarine.


Butterflies
A swarm of butterflies in a forest glen
Fly out from the shadows then swoop back in
They fly through shafts of falling light
And the dust motes that trickle from trees’ great height.

The forest is fragrant with the scent of fresh pine.
Spider webs are strung, gossamer and fine.
Orange mushrooms grow beneath a dead log,
And the mornings are blanketed by a damp fog.

Old elk walk stately along a river bed
As the butterflies flutter around their antlered heads,
And the river goes rippling past the old, quiet stones
While the butterflies make their migration home.


The Early Reaper
All men are fields of flowers
Which start from heavy seeds.
In spring, their early buds
Will breast the soil and grow.
In summer, their bright petals
Are upturned before the sun.
In fall the plants are wilting,
Their tender shoots are turned to husks,
And come winter they are withered
As the snow and winds sepulcher stalks.

And I am an early reaper
Who comes as a late frost.
In spring the flowers budding
Are the first of flowers lost.
And in summer I am fire
When the rains have left and gone
I spread amongst the meadows
And leave desert in my trail.
In fall I’m like the wild duck
Consuming every crop
In winter I’m resplendent
In robes of ice and lack and want.


Fog’s Soliloquy
I walk upon the dank, dark moor
And drift from post to post
My feet are wisps on the damp floor
My step is softer than a ghost’s.

My hair’s like tendrils that always waft
My form is a clammy embrace
My figure’s gentle, light, and soft,
I leave no print or trace.

In fancies frightened I make faces
As I wander through the bog
Making eerie, mystique places—
You know me by my name of Fog.


Mayfly
In the pond, between brown trout and rock dove,
Spawns the short-lived mayfly,
Who, like brief life and yet briefer love,
Exists for a revolution and then does die.

Between the head of the path and its end,
Whether it be hard stone or soft dirt,
Whether it lies straight or climbs and bends,
In life, in love, there is pain, and there is hurt.

We are mayflies, alive for but a brief time,
Inhabitants together of these strange parts;
Why, then, should we give our prime
To anything but what is dearest to our hearts?


Music in Winter
In winter, along the grey and green northwestern shore,
the freezing ocean draws its briny waves and bubbling foam
over beach crabs, Nautilus shells, and the crow-combed floor
as the sun sets beyond the sea into her western home.
Then the stars come out. One by one, they start to appear.
They are like lighthouses in the cold, black galaxies of space,
each with a message that says, Here, there are planets here,
circling round and round, far away, revolving round a fiery base.
And then, floating up from the water, comes the crescent moon,
scythe-like, Arabesque, swaddled by scudding silver clouds,
and blinking behind a raven who flies, witchlike, through the woven gloom,
through winds whose warp and weft are the cloth of night’s dark shrouds.
In the midst of this a couple wander onto the sands.
They are lit by moonlight. Her hair is long; their feet are bare.
They walk like lovers and intertwine their hands.
They stop at sea’s edge and breathe the salty air.
It is a dark, cold night. A vagrant cloud covers the moon.
Not a light, not a lamp, not a glow can be seen.
The music of the ocean’s combers is an ancient tune.
The rustling of the firs lends woodwinds to the night’s song,
while the girl adds vocals to the primordial, ancient endeavor,
singing into the wind, into the wilderness, into the wild, high and strong,
a song that lasts a moment, with notes that last forever.


Once More into the Void
The Earth revolves, and seasons change.
Foliage turns red, brown, orange, and black.
Bucks snort. Their breath rises.
Their hooves crunch through fresh snow.
Now the fawns are born.
They are brown, soft as butter, with white spots.
Their legs tremble.
In comes the sun. High overhead,
Its heat leaves the air shimmering.

At the amphitheater, a musician
Mops the sweat from his eyes,
Folds his cloth, and returns it
To his breast pocket. A crowd
Is sitting in the fresh green grass.
He puts the bow to his cello,
Turns to the band, and he calls,
“One more time around!”


The Prairie in Winter
The cold north wind comes tumbling through
Laying drifts high against blackjack trunks.
The deer are out.  The sky is blue.
Here lie tracks of hares and chipmunks.

The snow’s buried the prairie grass.
Big buffalo huddle and snort.
Over the plains bald vultures pass.
Winter is long.  Its days are short.

The full moon rises behind clouds
Whose billowy silver forms gleam.
Skeletal are the blackjack’s boughs
That reach across the frozen stream.

This is the plains in December:
Rolling, snowswept fields, a huge sky,
Leafless riverbottom timber,
And an arid air, crisp and dry.

Here are wild and austere beauty
Found in the mist of bison’s breath,
The crow’s feathers—glossy, sooty—
And the old weave of life and death.


The River to a Trout
What a fine and watery home you are
With currents rippling, cold and clear
With a sunken gravelly sandbar
To which eggs will easily adhere.

And what a clean, quick sound you make!
As your water burbles over stones—
Aqua drawn from a cold lake,
Where the water’s as silent as bleached bones.

River, you branch and fork and cleft
Beneath the willows and the oak
And entwine with mists of gossamer heft
That mantle your surface with smoke.


Robins
Robins perch in the Teton’s forest
On snow-laden boughs of pine trees.
The birds sing sweetly in chorus
While waiting for the north spring breeze.

Their eyes gleam like obsidian.
Their gaze is bright and querying.
With brisk, swift looks the birds peer in–
Past the pines on which they’re tarrying,

Over the saxifrage and vetch–
To the sky, darkening at dusk.
In the cold low sun, shadows stretch:
Full day becomes a hollow husk.

The robins fly to a copse of spruce,
Watching for the barred owl and crow.
Here the birds settle in to roost
Above wild raspberries and snow.


A Rural Autumn
As the fall leaves start to scatter,
Amongst the winds and raindrops’ patter,
The cold gusts in from north and west,
And the fields are fertile with the ripe harvest.

The strawberries turn red upon the vine.
The grapes grow ready to become a wine.
The pumpkins become both orange and round,
While from the hollow, the sparrow’s song sounds.

The mists of autumn blanket moist mornings,
As the mushrooms grow in mud by springs.
The dells and the valleys are webbed by streams,
And the land glows golden in the sun’s banked beams.


Silence
Silence flies on an owl’s wings
In the space between the breezes.
It follows the time when the skylark sings,
And waits as quietly as water freezes.

Silence sits and stares;
It makes fools seem wise.
Its pacific calm soothes anxious cares,
And it serves as Conscience’s eyes.

Silence waits in outer space
Amongst the beds of birthing stars.
It grants space terror, majesty, and grace,
And befits its stately powers.

Silence separates the words we speak,
And gives respect to the dead.
It defines the meek,
And fills with sound the pages that we’ve read.


Summer Grasslands
Bison graze the tall, golden grass.
A sparrowhawk rests on an oak.
A herd of wild horses, paints, pass.
Like the sun, they’ve never been broke.

It is summer.  The wind is hot.
The river’s just a silty stream.
By it, a fox settles in for thought,
Then he curls himself up to dream.

At night the fireflies come out.
The flies twinkle like earthly stars.
Owls hoot.  Wolves howl.  Trees creak in drought.
Planets can be seen: Venus, Mars.

The wind rustles the big bluestem
And shakes the leaves on the willow.
Silver clouds scud.  The moon is dim
And lights the plains with its grey glow.


Three Sea Haikus
Pearl Morning of Mist

Pearl morning of mist
Clipper ships in the harbor:
Undressing lover.

The Harbor Air
Rough, coarse, salty air,
A fragrance smelled from far-off.
Hot stew in kitchens.

Under the Sea
Undersea lie ships,
Sunken and decomposing:
A bottle’s settlings.


Water
The pelting pitter patter of precipitation
tick tip tip tap
ppit ppit
on the rain washed window
during the dreary day
sends me, wends me,
bores me, as no sun can gather.
Another rain washed day:
grey and heavy storms,
forms of rain in sheets,
windy wreaths of rain
spin like cyclones in the lane.
The dreary drops go drip drip drip;
the gutter filling rain
makes slipping hours pass, peculating time
on stealthy phantom feet.
The steady clock goes tick tick tock,
Pock pock pick, pick pick pock.
Seconds sound in time to steady drops of rain
clock pock tick tock;
Seconds sound in tune to rain that nurses earth…
A water song, a sing along:
rivulets of rivers run,
languorous lakes will swell.
A water song with wet world words:
moist monsoon, sea storm squall, great ungainly gales;
sails and masts and levies snap in times of wet travails.
Tap tap tap, tip tip tip.
Ships snapped; sailors dead,
sunk in whirling eddies deep, in whirlpools, fish schools,
entombed in worlds of water,
in a never dreaming, seaweed feeding, never ending, sound unceasing sleep.
Such a sad unnecessary slaughter of superstitious sailors,
star-crossed seafarers, unfortunate mariners,
in scenes both past and present has never been succeeded nor never yet surpassed.
What a word is water; what a world is water!
Drip drip drip,
tick tick tock.
Clocks chime ten,
the dusky hour,
and still the rain pours down:
days and nights, nights and days,
months and months of rain.
The endless drip, the dreary dusk,
the weary walks from work
in incessant rain on ho-hum days,
rain interminable as an hour.



Wildfire
On the yellow and blue prairie
Where the wind rustles the tall grass
A fire begins to carry,
Taking here and there—growing vast.

The grasslands shimmer with wild heat.
From a distance there is no sound
Just a flat orange line like a sheet
Beneath tombstones of black smoke clouds.

In dead of night, it’s an orange glow:
Like a torch in a sunless cave.
And glittering, spark-filled winds blow
Ash over the charred prairie grave.

As huge, towering clouds roll in,
Thunder cracks above the fires;
Rain pierces the smothering wind;
Lightning appears in cobwebbed wires.

By dawn, the prairie is hell’s floor:
Scorched, steaming, smoking, and stripped,
At once damp and hot at its core—
The underworld beneath a crypt.

In time come hordes of butterflies,
Undulating capes of Monarchs,
Faceless with wings like blinking eyes,
Fluttering past the torrid marks.

And, too, bison and birds return,
Slowly and lightly, hoof and wing,
To that flat dish remade by the burn,
To death, life, known stages of things.




Winter Portrait
On oak branches hang frosted leaves–
Brittle, icy, and walnut brown–
Among stones, wolves, owls, swans, and geese,
Where flakes of snow fall thickly down.
Fragrant pines and gnarled cedars stand
In a gorge by the frozen stream
Where fog lies in a milky band,
And the sun makes the clear ice gleam.

Through this cold, all solitary,
Walks a man most melancholy.
All he owns is all he carries:
His bread, water, hopes, and follies.
He recalls a girl from his past.
He dreads the long, poor road ahead
For darkness here is most unkind.
He has no place to lay his head.

He treks across the snowy plains
Past the scrub oak, the pines, and streams,
His mind is hard, his body pained.
His clothing is worn at the seams.
The moon rises, new and dark.
Stars are woven like fishing nets.
The land lies daunting, grim, and stark.