Carpenter's Woods. February, 2021.


When my fears turn to fevers or dread 

becomes the stuff of suffocation, I retreat 

to Carpenter’s Woods.

I walk leaf-strewn trails, 

carved amid the schist and shale 

deposited eons ago.

I listen for the songs of migrating birds 

and watch for their skittering companions 

in the  undergrowth, mice and squirrels, 

at times a fox.

But it is the trees that invite me into their world. 

They allow me to share their seasonal shifts, 

and among them, I calibrate myself again
to nature’s rhythms.


As children we learned the algebra of 

mutual interdependence, signs and symbols 

capturing this miracle of sunlight and chlorophyll. 

The greater lesson was not lost on us. 

When we breathe, it is the gift of the trees. 

The fledgling scientists among us appreciated 

the rigor of the chemical exchange. 

The budding ecologists pledged to honor 

the reciprocities of all living things. 

But it was the poets who would learn 

to parse the fragility of the equation and 

its susceptibility to tragic imbalances, 

unveiling these as the source of 

so much sorrow. Was I among them?


A leaf trembles in a faint breeze, 

one of its final gifts perhaps the breath 

I take as I pass by. 

It clings to its stalk, as its desiccation is 

not yet so complete that a mere sigh 

could tumble it to the forest floor. 

On this Autumn day in the woods, 

the leaves are all in a tenuous state, 

these precarious semaphores reminding 

me that I, like them, am bound for 

my own predestined release. 

To what do I cling? Neither stalk nor stem 

sustains this fragile and wildly improbable life, 

suspended as it is, not in space, but between 

two points in time. 


Beneath the leaves on the forest floor, 

and beneath the soil, a vast fungal chorus 

sings hallelujahs. 

Chemical and electrical, these songs of wisdom, 

warnings and succor reach every tree 

within its embrace, traveling from root to branch 

and ending at the tips of their leaves. 

The leaves call back to the underground chorus 

and so the conversation ensues amid the trees, 

for kith and kin alike, but not for those of my kind. 

I cannot tune my senses to join them. 

The trees elicit another kind of understanding, 

and I am left to imagine what was imparted 

to these leaves as they fell to their last.


The empty branches will bud and leaf again. 

The trees will awaken and regenerate 

their green extravagance. 

And the yearly return of Spring will assuage 

our deepest fears, as time’s linear arrow 

will bend once more to a circular trajectory. 

The end becomes the beginning and we rejoice. 

It is the forest at its most profligate. But what of 

the single leaf, having dropped to the forest floor, 

trapped still in its particularity? 

Does the recurring cycle compensate for its return 

to dust? And what of me? Am I leaf or tree?



That which I know to be me is but a small part 

of all that is me. Wherever I am, I become what 

I find there, this body that walks these woods, 

host and interloper, this collection of atoms and light, 

so like the trees, but also this residue of promise 

and memory, so like the leaves. 

I go to Carpenter’s Woods and the trees invite me 

into their world. I become the whispered descent 

of the falling leaves, and the silences in between. 

I become the sorrow of their decay and 

the glory of their return. In these woods, 

the trees invite me into their world. 

Gratefully, I enter.