April In Our Woods

We are walking out together this morning,
My beloved, twenty years my bride, and I.
She goes to the woods to begin her every day,
Sometimes, as now, prevails on me to come too.
Glad am I she never gives up on me, always
Hopeful, and the gift she is to my heart and mind
Forces me sometimes out of myself, to follow her
To the woods, the breathing soul of dreaming earth.
Nights are cold, smoke from the sugar hose tells
Maple sap is plentiful this year, and the chill of morn
Remains in our eyes to clear and waken them.
Outside our door the blue and white crocuses wait
The gentle prod of sun to open again
Rhododendron puts tentative buds to the air.
It will warm soon. The sky is clarion blue.
Green laurel everywhere encourages the spring.
The woods here are varied: slender ash, tall
Silvery beech, much hemlock, some pine,
Old oak. Maple are more by houses and roads,
And hickory are all down the east side of the hill.
Birch are rare and sickly, more sensitive
To the sour rain from the industries to the west,
Their rotting trunks litter the forest floor.
We find a dark freshet warbling deep below
And follow it up again to our neighbor’s pond.
Twenty-five years ago he bought the land,
Thirty acres, from our community to ease our debt.
He tore down the houses, built himself a new one,
His own road, and dug his pond below the house.
He is a doctor in the big city and is rarely here,
Only a few weekends a year. We know him little,
Our exchanges all about our spilling over his borders.
Not a country person, at least not a community man,
Not a neighbor as neighbors are reckoned here.
New Hampshire folks are private and possessive too,
So maybe it’s the Indian in me wondering about him,
Seems like he knows how to work the culture well,
Property, money, America’s model of success.
I’m guessing he toils at undoing the damages of stress
In the city, needs to remove sometimes to the slow,
The quiet, the order and wonder of our woods, dig
His hands in the soil of gardens and watch the ducks.
Well and good. I’m only bothered that during more
Than three hundred days of every year the boys
Of town warned not to skate or swim the empty pond.
We lie in sun and watch the ducks – a pair of them
(At least they have not been barred) gliding
Sedately and bobbing for their submerged buffet.
While I plan all I must do today the languid ducks
Just cruise the moment, letting northlands wait:
When the time comes they will be on their way.
Meanwhile mice and squirrels and chipmunks rustle
The dry leaves. In the larger pond below the hill
Mother beaver stirs her mate, “It’s half-past
April, time to get busy, the house is a wreck,
The children are famished, the dam leaks,
The otters already out and scouring the pond.”
Now the drone of a single plane slices the sky
Like a buzz-saw, reminding both of us
Of the human world beyond that feeds and grows
On its own toxicity, the hunger of its maw
Seeking to swallow every forest, all
Our ash and oak and hemlock, every maple,
Hickory, birch and beech, pine and cedar,
The mice, chipmunks, squirrels, rabbits, deer,
Wildcat, wolf, coyote, moose, raccoon,
Skunk and porcupine, beaver, badger, possum,
Scurrying quail, grouse, turkey and pheasant,
Hawks, eagles, falcons, buzzards keeping watch.
Where will we all go? How should there be life
When April returns but the forest is no more?
I want to tell that pilot up there, all the people
Raging the roads of sky and land, come back,
You won’t find it anywhere that you are going:
Not peace, nor love, nor freedom, nor joy, nor life —
Nothing your soul requires is there to be found,
Only more search and stress and never April.
Come instead to the woods and follow your love.

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