Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Tearing Down My Cabin \ Field Work

Alan:  Growing up, “the summer place” was the one constant in a life of frequent dislocations.  All that’s gone now.
Tearing Down My Cabin
Under the trim-strip,
ruined hamlets of mud-dauber wasps –
fragile, remote as abandoned
and one small bat, irritably
shaken from sleep
to the humid August
who falls, opens
paper-bag wings
and zig-zags off
among the branches.
We tear it all down,
carry the debris
from lake-side to road,
dumped there
with forty summers’
memories, leaving only
a bird house,
knocked together
from scraps,
hung from a beech limb
long ago, in hopes
a wren might find it.
Nothing ever did.
It’s there still, suspended,
empty in shadow
at the edge of the
clearing’s emptiness.
Nancy:  Nothing there about the vest pockets full of gorp, small skulls, plant samples, nothing about the bear's footprints pressed into the mud on top of ours or the comfort of my tent at the end of the day.
Field Work
Ten meters to a side
one hundred square meters
and at each compass point
another plot
with each tree taped
and all the fragile herbs
sampled, pressed, keyed, annotated, filed.
Climb one hundred feet.  At each new elevation
do it all again.  Measure.  Count.
Multiply that by days.
That’s how we made this forest
of pages
and you can see that it’s true
the red oaks there in the thickets
and how the steep slope saved the beech
and where the farms receded
never mind that each failure
was someone’s misfortune
and the woods crept back
until they overcame their own pioneers
and how we may all be dead
before the orchids bloom again.
It’s true
the graphs don’t lie; the maples,
given time, will reclaim the hill.
This paper forest is about change.
But in the forest of my mind
it is July forever; sweat
runs down my back,
my pack straps chafe,
the forest smells of crushed fern
and when I turn the pages,
a bird sings.
“Field Work” first appeared in East of the Light (Stone Man Press and Slow Dancer Press, 1984)