The Forest

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.

Jan Schreiber

Jan Schreiber

Jan Schreiber was Poet Laureate of Brookline, Massachusetts from 2015 to 2017. His books include Digressions (1970), Wily Apparitions (1992), Bell Buoys (1998), Peccadilloes (2014), and Bay Leaves, as well as two books of translations: A Stroke upon the Sea and Sketch of a Serpent. His criticism is collected in his book Sparring with the Sun (2013). He teaches in the BOLLI program at Brandeis University and runs the annual Symposium on Poetry Criticism at Western Colorado University. His collection of Paul Valéry’s poems in translation will be published later this year by Cambridge Scholars.
Jan Schreiber

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Author: Jan Schreiber

Jan Schreiber was Poet Laureate of Brookline, Massachusetts from 2015 to 2017. His books include Digressions (1970), Wily Apparitions (1992), Bell Buoys (1998), Peccadilloes (2014), and Bay Leaves, as well as two books of translations: A Stroke upon the Sea and Sketch of a Serpent. His criticism is collected in his book Sparring with the Sun (2013). He teaches in the BOLLI program at Brandeis University and runs the annual Symposium on Poetry Criticism at Western Colorado University. His collection of Paul Valéry’s poems in translation will be published later this year by Cambridge Scholars.