Issue 153, Winter 1999
Roots and rocks emerge from the forest path like half-
or as Thoreau would put it, the earth is saying “rock.” And
too, and tiny bright red mushrooms and green moss worn
smooth like a poem
one’s fingered for years. Bedraggled cattails, a few yellow,
leaves, but summer lingers—the scented air is warm and
spangled with sunlit
motes. Roots make earthen steps, but here, where my
stands like the pine in a Japanese poem, roots multiply, so
that I need
to walk with care on the uneven earth. But I need to get
near this tree, I need
it for a poem, recycled from the Japanese. As I walk, I need
to take in the rocks and roots, those thoughts still half-spoken
by the earth.
But this is silly—I am old enough to know that neither the
earth nor the sun
thinks, or cares what I think, or needs to be put in a poem.
Nor does a tree.
It is presumption to think this, or think that to be old, and
to walk in the fall
woods and say that the earth is uttering rocks is all right
because one is a poet.
Nor will it do to think about one’s age in the fall woods, or
about leaves turning, hair and seasons turning, etc. There is
for a poem like that—it has been done already by plenty of
Even the pine, looking so Japanese here by the pond where
yellow leaves fall
and float and lily pads like green plates serve up their white
so poetic, has no wish to be recycled into something that is
only a thought
and not a living thing rooted in the earth while all its needles
shine in the sun.
So, like the woodman in the old poem, I’ll spare that tree
and let the sunshine
fall wordless on the still pond and the golden needles
fallen on the earth.
I’ll walk without thinking and just look at the roots as they
spring from the earth
and the rocks that crop up over eons like stubborn,
Recycling is for cans and jars. I’ll let the woods surround
but not enter them. I’ll pocket no leaf or red mushroom to
prompt my need
to write poems, although it’s a true proverb: “There’s nothing
new under the sun,"
and poets have long walked in the yellow woods and felt
how the fall sun
was warm, but not quite like summer, and seen leaves falling
and had a thought
or two about getting old and how everything recycles. And
if I need to root
around and find a tree for a poem, who’s to say no? The
earth? The rocks?