The Dark Woods

by | Jun 13, 2023 | Issue Thirty-Three, Poetry

There are those who stand among the huge trunks
of old trees and hear a silence
made by things beyond our influence.  
This silence was heard by those who raised
gothic cathedrals in Europe,
in which we can stand today and hear
redwoods sipping mists from the Pacific.  

In upstate New York a ranger told me
that male drivers at all times of the year
stop to take a leak in the forests
and wander too far in from the road
to find their way back and don’t take
a phone.  Often their bones are found
months later and sometimes miles away.  

There are those who sneer at the lack
of old growth woods in Massachusetts,
but I know some impressive trees there.  
One afternoon Norma and I
were deep in a wood when we heard
something growling and grunting not far
behind us.  We hurried on.  The thing
followed us.  The grunts were good, the growls
less convincing.  I picked up a bare limb,
waited and charged at a young man,
advancing and peering ahead,
who took one look at me and ran
for his life – he may have detected
something primitive in my response.  

They do not let you climb Mount Rainier
in a T-shirt or high heels.  It’s us
who will have to rescue you, they say.  

On the Olympic Peninsula,
having entered the forest on foot,
you may never be heard of again.  
Setting out on an ocean voyage
in a small boat, you expect this.  
Between the lines on a road map, you don’t.  
You are vulnerable.  The huge trunks
of old trees make you aware of that.  
On a random walk, far from any road,  
you see a male body in the shelter
of a long-fallen hardwood tree, 
tall, bearded, muscular, motionless.  
Do you let him sleep or decompose?

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