Surface Tension

Water Striders j_arlecchino via Compfight

Surface Tension

None better, this golden day
on the bank of Canoe Creek.

Late afternoon slides
into long-shadowed dusk.

A mayfly, as we do,
swoops too close

to the surface, then squirms
to free itself.

And now I see

the water is carpeted in insects,
some wriggling, some not.

One of many, now
they float downstream.

– Steve Peterson

Drawing the Circle

singing-frog-in-watercolor-by-frits-ahlefeldt Frits Ahlefeldt-Laurvig via Compfight

Summer is winding down. I can see it in the trees’ leaves, the way they turn ever so slightly towards yellow, as if they are tired from the effort of their summer’s work. But everywhere, too, compulsion and desire.

Drawing the Circle

They came
like a division of tanks
shiny and clattering
these dragonflies
clearing swaths
through the insects
that left the safety
of the prairie grass,
propelled toward the light
above
a cotillion of swallows dance
through the dragonflies
and higher yet,
on the far side of the valley,
tired from the long summer days
shadows lean heavily
on the east side of trees
leaves
faded toward yellow,
spent from their obligation
to make something
from next to
nothing
now stands in the way
of the growing darkness,
the trill of the
toads’ desire
to draw the circle
close.

–Steve Peterson

Storm Lessons

shades-of-grey Jeremy Hiebert via Compfight

Here is a poem I wrote earlier this summer after watching a storm come across the lake at the family cabin. Thunder echoes off the trees that surround the lake.

Storm Lessons

What can I learn
from a summer squall
that rushes across the lake,
whipping up whitecaps
and turning the soft, blue water
a sullen, spattered gray?
That darkness
arrives quickly sometimes?
That both calm and tumult
can occupy
the same surface?
That what moves in
also moves on? These are
important things to consider
on a late afternoon
while the dragonflies
wait out the rain
under the eaves.

– Steve Peterson

Two Haiku from Up North

Here are two haiku from my recent trip north. The woods are several weeks behind Iowa, so the trees are still green-tipped and the skimmers (dragonflies) are plentiful! White-throated sparrows sang in the balsam scrub and warblers sang among the aspens.

Fir or Pine Needles Stuart Rankin via Compfight

 

dark pine needles
backlit against the gray sky –
distant thunder rumbles

 

the fir’s youngest branches
offer dragonfly
a place to rest

Between the Water and the Air

Dragonflies are hatching. Skimmers and darners are darting, catching mosquitoes, midges, and whatever else they can find. This poem is about that, but also about the moments that make life rich, and how easy it is to miss them. Gratitude.

Ringed Boghaunter (Williamsonia lintneri) Dragonfly - Male David Marvin via Compfight

Between the Water and the Air

Maybe a different day
would have passed unnoticed
like the rabbit, hunched and silent,
who watches you make your way
through the pasture grass.
Especially under a leaden sky
that promises all day rain,
it is easy enough to miss
the significance of things.

But there, at your foot,
pausing for a moment
between the water and the air,
a dragonfly’s transparent wings
glint wet and new;
and within them the whole
threatening sky, the leaning
grass, the dying elms that rim
the field, your peering eye,
this entire large world
are caught
in a web of veins.

– Steve Peterson

Below the Surface

2015_11_09_lhr-ewr_159Creative Commons License Doc Searls via Compfight

Here is a poem from my writing notebook that I’ve been playing around with. Last night was so beautiful. I stayed outside long after the fire in the fire pit had died down and the stars had come out.

Below the Surface

Blue whales are large,
but not the largest of living things,
though ask anyone and that’s the
first opinion offered; unless

they mention the giant sequoia – if we
make it past our blindness of plants.
But even that behemoth,
towering 350 feet in the air and wide enough
to drive a car through, is dwarfed by

the mass of a simple fungus*
in Oregon, nearly two and a half
miles across and almost entirely
underground, except for the
mushrooms that carpet the ground
when conditions are right.

Who has not wondered, on a warm spring
night while looking at the stars,
whether things are more connected
than they appear, whether what we see is
not what we get, but something

much larger, much grander
than we can imagine?

* Here’s a story about that fungus, if you are interested.

Hickory Buds

 

 

Photo: Steve Peterson
Photo: Steve Peterson

I had my last day of school on Friday and, while I love my job, I really need some time to think and write and remember what that other life is like. So, the hickory buds took on even more meaning than they usually do this time of year. I’m looking forward to writing more, but first, a trip North, canoe paddle in hand.

Hickory Buds

Again this year, after swelling through April
the hickory buds burst one day in May.
All of a sudden and everywhere
they heave open their doors
and fling themselves into the light.
How I am like this some days, too,
furled, tightly packed, cramped,
I wait, feeding myself
the energy stored in my roots,
then, suddenly, unfurled,
grasping and stretching I leap
towards the brightness of May.
Who, in the long run, can say
which is better? Both are necessary;
the one depends on the other.
Although, I know right now
which one I will choose.

– Steve Peterson

Moses

Moses

Only a flash of crimson
against a sullen sky —
impossible fire,
fleeting comet — alights
on a bare branch dripping
in the orchard. He leans, tilts,
and lets loose a song so clear,
so filled with yearning,
the dark seas part.
The promised land
beckons.

— Steve Peterson