Earth Tongue

I’m digging up old poems and rewriting when necessary. Some require extensive revision, which I’ve been neglecting for three years now. Some may not have even known they were poems. I found the germ of this poem in a prose piece from July 19, 2004. I’m hoping that readers can still appreciate it without knowing all the plants and fungi invoked.

Enchanter’s nightshade,
rattlesnake plantain,
a deer fly stumbles —
jumpseed —
through my matted hair.
In the daylong dusk of midsummer woods,
I find him with the flat of my hand.

White moths dot the ground,
flopping like landed fish.
Who knows what goes on up there
where the leaves run out?

The trees sweat.
Every fifteen feet, another web
& a spider the size of carpet tack.
I wield my walking stick like a fencer’s foil.
No damage done: this species of spider
eats her own web each night,
starts fresh in the morning.

Listen, these woods are far stranger
than anything I can write.
Here’s a mollusk without a shell,
a four-inch hermaphrodite,
gray pinstripes stretched on a bed of moss.
I crouch down to watch its lubricated progress.
Eyestalks swivel to tune me in.

Somewhere close by, a tree gives way,
roots loosened by weeks of intermittent rain.
After the crash, a wood peewee
keeps bending the same two notes.
Earth tongue,
fly agaric,
his fondest wish is for the clouds
never to part.

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Dave Bonta (bio) crowd-sources his problems by following his gut, which he shares with 100 trillion of his closest microbial friends — a close-knit, symbiotic community comprising several thousand species of bacteria, fungi, and protozoa. In a similarly collaborative fashion, all of Dave’s writing is available for reuse and creative remix under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License. For attribution in printed material, his name (Dave Bonta) will suffice, but for web use, please link back to the original. Contact him for permission to waive the “share alike” provision (e.g. for use in a conventionally copyrighted work).


  1. That’s real nice about the peewee “bending” notes just like a plaintive harmonica. Harmonica music is good for humid climates.


  2. A summer’s day walk is a perfect read on a stormy winter day. It’s so hopeful. Trees with leaves, white moths on the ground, birdsongs. All a memory now, but wonderfully evoked here.


  3. Maybe some wistfulness, but more likely sincere appreciation that someone in the humid climates is evoking them so well that I need never go back!


  4. robin andrea – Oh, you have winter out there? Lucky you! I’m glad you enjoyed the poem, though.

    Brett – Ha! Well, O.K. — folks in your profession are going to be in high demand when the aquifers run dry. Living water and all that. (There’s a reason why the Zunis and Hopis have so many priesthoods!)


  5. I like your way of bending the notes in the service of mysteries. Am going to go root about a bit more before I go back to work…


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