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

March Ice

IMG_0831
Photo by Steve Peterson

March Ice

The puddle that melted in yesterday’s sun
froze again last night, first
from the edge, the shallowest part,
then inward where the water held fast
to a memory of warmth, even as the
darkness settled in. Lately, I’ve heard
the ducks down by the creek
remind each other that the trip north
was a good idea, although some
weren’t so sure, feet freezing as they were
on the shore ice. Even so, there’s a chance
the puddle will melt again today.
You know, sometimes it takes awhile
for the message to arrive, a while
for the heart to accept what it
does not want to hear.

– Steve Peterson

The heron knows something about waiting

Blauwe reiger / Grey heron Judith via Compfight

The heron knows something about waiting

The heron knows
something about waiting.
And the roots of the
bellwort, too,
deep down in
the still cool ground, they
wait for the soil to warm
just so before dropping
a bead on the surface
to explode, a yellow
burst against such
fine greenery.
Maybe,
if I stand still as a reed
near the pond and listen,
maybe, if from within
the ground that surrounds,
and if the earth tilts just so,
I might hear the call, sense
the movement, feel
the warmth, then
know the moment
is good and right
to emerge.

— Steve Peterson

A Box Too Small

Spring nature tanakawho via Compfight

A Box Too Small

There was a cartoon I remember when I was a kid, one where this guy opened up his closet to look for something inconsequential, a shoe for instance, and then kept pulling out stuff — a lamp, a sofa, two tires, a roast turkey with all the trimmings, a circus elephant, a hockey goal, way more than could possibly fit in that tiny closet. Some spaces are too small to contain what they hold. Like the other day, from high above in the ash tree, a meadowlark ripped a song so full of vigor and delight that there’s no way a single breath in that small body could have held such joyous enthusiasm. Too small that breath, for sure, but there he was anyway just letting it fly, like Jack had finally leaped all the way out of his box and now he had to tell the world of his escape.

– Steve Peterson