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Late afternoon's unloosed light
runs both on clouds and Cascade Range.
Which is which is hard to decipher,
orange-washed peaks brush orange-slashed
vapor, symbol of what abides
blends with emblem of what will vanish.
I feel here but have no sense of I.
-- Clifford Paul Fetters

The Wetland at Cannon Beach
The hollow, dark smell of stagnant water
breeding generation among roots of rushes:
I breathe it in deep thinking as I pass,
when will they drain the marsh and pave it over?
Winter cattails, redwings,
myriad lives that hover in rank water,
sunlight low across the silver grasses,
step of the great dun antlered elk,
never here, never again, never.

Once the world outlived me
and I was brief among enduring things.
Now it's quicker than I am, leaving
my hands like empty cattail stalks,
my mind like dark marsh water.
-- Ursula K. Le Guin

Look Again
What you have never noticed about the toad, probably,
is that his tongue is attached not to the back of his mouth but
the front-how far it extends
when the fly hesitates on a near-enough leaf! Or that

his front feet, which are sometimes padded, hold three nimble
digits -- had anyone
a piano small enough I think the toad could learn
to play something, a little Mozart maybe, inside
the cool cellar of the sandy hill -- and if

the eyes bulge they have gold rims,
and if the smile is wide it never fails,
and the warts, the delicate uplifts of dust-colored skin, are
neither random nor suggestive of dolor, but rather are
little streams of jewelry, in patterns of espousal and pleasure,
running up and down their crooked backs, sweet and alive in the sun.
-- Mary Oliver

OnEarth. Fall 2004
Copyright 2004 by the Natural Resources Defense Council