A mile deep in a wooded vale
the wind rears back and kicks —
as the poplars lurch beyond their means
one rotted husk concedes itself and
in a pistol crack fails inside-out, then from
a hundred feet above turns dagger, seeks
and meets the earth with rage.
I slipped here in a mist, shuffling
the beaded weed-stitched fields,
passing a wordy tombstone in
the chickweed wash that I’d reduced
to riddle, some parlor game
of weaving four names’ tragic tales
and moving through their shrouds in haste.
But I stopped moving with that gunshot tree,
that sword flung down into the flesh
At Rinkers Creek
I settled to the mosses of the sloppy bank
and waited for my dagger.
No signal here,
the only static in the hack of wind.
Then another snap, a second poplar
trading sky for land.
I bow and I trace an eddy
as it hugs a sweeping sandstone curve,
shoots a curled leaf along the sleepy flow.
Then fronts above rub up again, the air punching
at the trees, the architecture of these woods
ablaze in snaps and groans.
among the tangled shoreline roots
I trace the signatures of those I’ve lost,
my mother’s fractured flourish
threaded through the gasping snags.
A third crack snaps the woods in half
and against my thrumming inner eyes
some unseen surrender thunders hard
to the ragged forest floor.
Then, for minutes, there is nothing but the creek.
The shimmer in the drift between the reeds.
My easing breath soft across the murmur.
Finally, the violent sky is still.
I rise to go,
the whisper of the creek replaced in step
by the ease of boot to land
the churning undersole
of deadfall into fuel
the messy, thriving
symphony of birth.
I climb out of the valley
to acres of chickweed-lapping dusk,
an invasion so lush and regal as to reject
its nomenclature, its violet legion shimmering
and laying down its arms.
Above, the churning sky is roiling off in eddies,
revealing swaths of piercing star aglow
in the heartbreaking rhythms of their bygone lives.
Oh gray day, with your endless snares
with your rattle and your joy.