1 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. 2 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. 3 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. 4 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. 5 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?
George Ryan was born in Ireland and graduated from University College Dublin. He lives in New York City. Elkhound published his Finding Americas, as well as Other Places, Other Times, and most recently Cumulonimbus. His poems are nearly all about incidents that involve real people in real places and use straightforward language.