Yes, woods once covered all the land you see.
Hard to believe, amid suburban sprawl.
Here boys made fortresses among the trees
and lovers fixed a time to rendezvous.
Each of us knew the place as no outsider
ever could – we thought it was our due.
The forest stood until one year it burned,
leaving a few charred poles amid the waste.
All we had left were some old photographs
preserved in bits on a computer drive
by whose dark magic trunks and leaves returned,
ghostlike, to those who squinted at the screen.
Leaves and a memory, so briefly lent
and perilous: was became must have been.
But that is all. No fallen limbs, no scat
of deer or rabbits on the path, no scent
of berries on a fitful breeze. No life.
The years we lived now seemed a fantasy.
It might have grown back greener than before,
if time could stretch itself and calm could last,
for seeds lay buried in the fire-raked soil
and held a future patterned on the past.
But some had plans, and what the fire had claimed
they now reclaimed as a development.
Why does it matter? Who will fare the worse
if what we valued most is out of reach
and leaves no history or sign? You were
a child back then. What good would it do you
to sift through ashes of those vanished years
and strain to find a motive or a source?
And yet you sense a forest in the mind,
a sylvan self inspired by those shades,
hardly discernible in the fading light.
Your recollection is a spark that might
blow through the tangled branches of desire
so nearly lost – and set it all ablaze.
Also by Jan Schreiber (see all)
- Reading the Powows - May 30, 2021
- The Forest - February 23, 2021
- Paul Valéry: Pomegranates - February 22, 2021