Hunting mushrooms

View on Vimeo.

A videohaiku shot yesterday on Hampstead Heath, where various autumn mushrooms are appearing in the leaf duff and meadows. I’ll admit, though, I had eyes mainly for the trees, as usual, and came home empty-handed except for some pretty images.

The vignetting effect is beginning to feel a bit cheesy to me, but I used it without hesitation here, perhaps because the subject of the second half of the video is the essence of cheesiness. The same thinking guided my choice of font. But it’s fine, because as I’ve said before, haiku are supposed to be somewhat light-hearted.

field mushroom, Hampstead Heath

Winter trees

A new videopoem using footage that Rachel shot from the Amtrak back in December. Do read her blog post about that journey, which includes a different clip from the same footage. I particularly liked this observation:

Trees! So many trees, their leaf-free branches strobing the setting sun when it was behind them, turning pink gold when it shone on them, revealing the geological contours through their branches of the land on which they grow.

Landscape scenes shot from moving trains or cars are so common in videopoetry, they’re almost a cliche, but this is a new variation on that theme, I think.

Three Poems from Native Species

cover of Native Species by Todd Davis

My near neighbor Dave Bonta invited me to share some poems from my forthcoming collection Native Species—my sixth book of poetry, due out from Michigan State University Press on January 1, 2019.

The major question that structures Native Species is whether we humans, at this point in the 21st century, are native to any place, when we consider how we change and desecrate our landscapes, radically impacting other species because of our burgeoning population, rampant consumerism, and advancing technology.

This is not to say that Native Species is a book of despair. On the contrary, I think I offer much hope, even celebration, for and of the natural world, sometimes using magically real moments of species-to-species interaction and transformation to suggest new ways of thinking about humanity’s place on earth.

Native Species can be ordered online through Michigan State University Press, on Amazon, or at Barnes & Noble. Or better yet, ask your local independent bookseller to order it! And please visit my website for more information about my other books.

Almanac of Faithful Negotiations

Here, at the edge of heaven,
I inhabit my absence.

Tu Fu

On the first day, we find evidence of elk but not the elk themselves.

On the second, we see the charred and blackened sleeves fire leaves but not a single flame.

By the third day, the oldest trees have already ascended but the microbial mouths buried in the dirt remain.

After four days, our minds flood with rivers and creeks, and we find it hard to speak, except in mud and stone.

On the fifth, ravens decorate a white-oak snag, croaking in the voices of our drunk uncles, reminding us whose house we live in.

Six days gone, a fisher stands on hind legs, stares across the meadow’s expanse, dares us to approach the porcupine-corpse, muzzle red with the body’s sugar.

When the last day comes, only minutes before dawn, susurration of wind, stars moving back into the invisible, all of us wondering when we will join them.

Returning to Earth

…trust in the light that shines through earthly forms.
Czeslaw Milosz

At the bottom of an abandoned well
dug more than a century ago
the moon rises from the center
of the earth, a crust of ice
forming around its edges.

The stand of larch outside
our bedroom window
sways, golden needles
stirring the air
underneath its boughs.

I open the window to hear
the river sailing away, riding
the stone boat of the basin
carved by spring floods.

Beyond the faint light
of a candle, your voice asks
if we might touch and remember
how our children were made,
how the bodies of our parents
were returned to earth.

I want our children’s hands
to hold the river, to watch it spill
through their fingers, back to a source
older than our names
for God.

Beneath a waxing moon
we’ve witnessed animals
dragging their dead into the light.
Tonight we imagine some
suckling their young
who are born blind
in these coldest months.

Soon the river will freeze,
and come morning we’ll break
the ice in the well
so we may drink.

In dark’s shelter I place the words
of a prayer upon your tongue.
You are gracious, saying
the prayer back
into my waiting mouth.

Coltrane Eclogue

You can play a shoestring if you’re sincere.
John Coltrane

Where the beak of a pileated opened a row
of holes down the length of a snag
wind blows across each notch,
angles of breathing, like Saint Coltrane
unfastening pearl and brass, exhalation
rushing through the neck of a saxophone,
bending into the sound that envelops
anyone with ears to hear. I’ve started to chant
a love supreme, although I’m alone,
more than four miles into the crease,
trying to pick up the rhythm, how each
lungful glides through hemlock needles,
kestrel slipping out onto the updraft,
with one wing-beat shifting the air
ever so slightly. And yet another woodpecker
drilling the side of a dying tree, a northern
flicker that stays just out of sight, laying down
a percussive line. I feel foolish for saying this,
but it’s like being reborn, a syncopation
that can call down rain, make the bud of a shadbush
unfurl, unwrap the slow, honest tongues
of beaver, and stamp a moose’s enormous
hind-quarter like a bass, all the others silenced,
fingers of that long-dead saint scaling gut-strings,
before a Blackburnian warbler joins in with its thin,
plaintive notes, and a goddamned bluebird,
which should seem trivial but is not, breast puffed,
raising its head toward a God that surrounds us,
who opens our stupid mouths and commands us
to play whatever instrument we’ve got.

The Hollow (48)

This entry is part 48 of 48 in the series The Hollow

 

half underground
as it joins the river
Plummer’s Hollow Run

 

Little Juniata

the name alone
is a river

 

no road sign

it’s not easy to find
the middle of nowhere

 

coda

self-check

a black-legged tick
burrowed in

The Hollow (47)

This entry is part 47 of 48 in the series The Hollow

 

railroad crossing

all the train horns
I hear in my sleep

 

in the unloved woods
between train tracks and river
needles and condoms

 

a shirt abandoned
by the fire ring

homeless campsite

 

floodplain

mosquitoes turning blood
into whine

The Hollow (46)

This entry is part 46 of 48 in the series The Hollow

 

at the bottom of the mountain
a small mountain
of gravel

 

riprap

just enough soil
for anise root

 

where the hollow empties
its silence into the gap
old cellar holes

 

locked gate

stroking the touch-me-nots
so they burst

The Hollow (45)

This entry is part 45 of 48 in the series The Hollow

 

in this foreign land
Norway maple leaves turn
ugly

 

upside-down somehow
in my phone’s photo

false Solomon’s-seal

 

backwater

stream-blurred trees come into
sharper focus

 

Keep Your Dog on a Leash

the notice board co-signed
by porcupine teeth

The Hollow (44)

This entry is part 44 of 48 in the series The Hollow

 

tall hemlock
nearly dead from adelgids

unfeathered

 

every year more rain

railroad noise burrows
into the ferns

 

that ice avalanche

my brother’s mark on a tree
lost to moss

 

two faces
on the side of a beech

one has no mouth

The Hollow (43)

This entry is part 43 of 48 in the series The Hollow

 

200 years old
or ten thousand

former road/streambed

 

rhododendron trunk

bare as high as a starving deer’s
neck can stretch

 

elevation measured
by the number of unripe
spikenard berries

 

slow-creeping slope

all the tree boles curved
to keep their balance

The Hollow (42)

This entry is part 42 of 48 in the series The Hollow

 

whispering against
the road from both sides

endless water

 

backhoe toothmarks

our complicated relationship
with the mountain

 

gabion wall

the quarried stones softening
with moss at last

 

a beech log’s pale skin
beginning to rupture

that rich ferment