The wet sweet rot underneath the darkened leaves
Crawls in a knotted lattice across the forest floor
Not a forest–that would mean some sense of order, of harmony–
But a tangle of vines and low growth, tugging at the trees,
Erasing the leafy pathways, the deer runs, the tension wire clear-cuts,
All that sought to shape its will, no more allowed.
It is like a bending of water.
I catch its scent only in these woods, or near them,
Beside the roadways, or near the driveway,
Late in the backyard when I settle with a drink,
Hoping to forget that it is there.
It is unexpected, coming as it does in the early dark,
Or before the rain,
But is always there, awaiting me whether I notice or not.
Like an army it surrounds the town, awaiting to destroy, to consume.
What is it exactly?
I catch the scent, and wonder–lavender, perhaps, or some mushroom –
I know so little of plants, of the language of nature,
How can we live so long and remain so much in darkness?
I run for it–I will find it!–but it is gone.
The nostrils breathe once, and then all is effusion, awash in a general gray,
Scent is a trigger, a trap,
But it is never consumed, leading onward
To some unanswered question.
Did we not, in secrets made bare,
All cares inspire and come to dread,
That all would one day, cold and dead
Lie dreaming as if they had been spun on air?
And in some spare and callous bed
The pain of world and words’ neglect,
That all had once been spry and styled
To our beguiling, charming life,
A pearl in wanting lay suspect
And though in slender, careless prose
Did overturn and upend peace
That such as merits kind repose,
No work but could demands impose?
Let thrown then, world, your tiger claws
And such terrors as I have dreamt,
Let not this dream be untimely spent,
Give not from fear unduly pause.
There is a hard and heavy hand
That can with cruel intemperate bent
Or simple turn then brush aside
All feats deride or sullen brand.
What mean these goblins real or forged
To our designs and simple will?
Is fire the tool by which to burn,
Or only burning, ash and flame,
A younger burning yet distill?
I can confess a roguish mind
That rattles not when thunder roils
Until all with fleeting courage boils.
Though not with knowing can I find
What suffering answers may be had
By summons of all bray and might
That day might turn back towards the night.