Monday, October 8, 2012

A Poem, September in the Midwest, The Little Creatures of Nature.

It's Sunday afternoon in the Universe, it's September, and lately the days are giving June, my most favorite month, a run for her money. Purple and yellow asters crowd the drainage ditches, along with chicory still flowering, thistles, golden rod, sumac, and heath asters. A lot of people around these parts have let roses go sort of feral in their ditches, or in underbrush near the road, and those leaves and thorns are red and sinister looking against the impossibly green lawns and tall grass growing in fallow fields. God, there are so many flowers I can't name or describe them all. I'm telling you the world outside your door is a quilt, it's a coat of many colors, it's the most magical thing going right now, unless your children happen to be outside playing in it, and then that is the most magical thing going.

A few times a week I go outside in my bare feet  and walk around in the grass. I read in a magazine that the grass stimulates the skin of your feet, releasing negative energy, soothing body and soul. Maybe. Maybe it does. I'm pretty wound up all the time, so I'm not sure if walking in the grass alone is sufficient to release all my negative energy, but I'll tell you what, it feels damn good, and it is relaxing.

It's September, and we've had some rain recently, so the grass is bright and cool. The wind is up, gentle and persistent, like my son in the morning, waking me for breakfast or play. There's a quality of light in September, it's like honey. It's the golden rod pollen haze and the sun receding. It's more luminous. I want to spread it on fresh bread like butter and eat it every day. I wish I could.


Well, as you might tell September got right away from me. It's now October, the haunted month. The sassafras trees are winning the fall foliage award for most splendid and colorful transformation. The little creatures of nature are still busy. Last night, under threat of frost, I harvested several handfuls of the herbs we planted this spring: parsley, flat and curly, tarragon, lavender, dill, lemon balm, and chives. While cleaning this haul to get it ready for drying I found a black swallowtail caterpillar in the curly parsley. Tonight I meant to put it in a caterpillar condo, just a plastic tub with some holes cut out and covered with hardware fabric or screen so we can watch the creature eat and develop. Well, the damn thing has flown the coop! It left behind a few stripped parsley stems and a pile of green feces, but is otherwise MIA. And as I type this an enormous and bold o'possum is on the front porch eating from Ella's food dish. I keep trying to take a picture but it's not so bold it'll stick around for it's own mugshot. It's a terrifying, ancient creature. North America's only marsupial. I'm sad for the ugly thing, and a little afraid of its wildness. It's not a small bug I can handle but a mammal, muscular and cunning. It survives. Earlier I pushed at it with a broom because I was afraid it and the cat were going to get all Roadhouse on each other, and I could feel it's strength when it resisted me and scurried off the porch. It's a brute. But, you know, elegant and well made, too. A part of the world just as we are, descended from stars and a prehistoric imagination.

A swallowtail caterpillar in a bunch of curly parsley.

A black and gold orb weaver. My son and I cruised the verge of the drainage ditch in front of our house one day and counted 12 of these beautiful creatures in an area just a few yards long. 

Here's a poem:

Metaphysical Questionnaire

You’ll want to know if I believe
in miracles, ghosts, and horoscopes.
I’ll tell you this, I believe in the
seasons, the colorful passage of time.
Annually, wildflowers and wild creatures
appear to come back from the dead,
though they’ve only been resting
underground, or maybe underwater;
or some birds, like turkey vultures
and robins, have flown to sunlit lands
across the sea or the great plains.
Like the soul does, when it’s done
with its body, if you want to believe
in that. My grandmother died, and
sure, I cried to see her go, but
the black eyed susan grows up
every year, crowding roadside grass
unmowed. She taught me the name
of those flowers and many others,
so couldn’t it be said she annually returns,
and nods her head at me as I drive to work
or home from some misadventure?
Listen, disregard the careless advice
of newspaper astrologists and television
ministers. I believe everything the Earth
provides is only semi-permanent, so
I put my faith in the seasons, and worship
periodically the snow and thunder storm,
cicadas emerging, maple trees dropping
their keys in lawns, turkey vultures soaring
over stone quarries and milkweed crowding
highway embankments. I don’t believe
in anything supernatural. Nature itself
provides daily and recurring miracles,
thank God for that, thank every wild God.


  1. You've got a new fan. Do you have an rss feed?

    1. Hillary, thank you!

      I just sort of learned what an rss feed is, and no, it turns out I don't have one, but I'll work it out. I'm still sort of a Neanderthal when it comes to using our modern technology!

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