O, sing a song of fall desires,
Of cool wind-mashed clouds and freezing skies,
And the trees that look not quite so green, but dry;
And of the one voice that calls when all the rest
Dead end, says the mustard sign,
But for me it's the live beginning,
Only the end of the bright outsides of houses
That leave me dull within.
Sailors need sea-room; let me have land-room,
Space enough for long thoughts
And loves I'm still pursuing.
So I pedal till I could break my bike's heart--
Or at least the speed limit--
And fly dry-throated to a place away,
A dead-end nook, a cleft in the woods along the road.
Benches rest in a welcoming open square:
A place for friends, but today for myself along the road.
The sign planted by the trailhead reads, "Hours:
Eight a.m. to sunset." Foolish.
As if the woods were not on their own time, their own heartbeat.
"POND" and a pointing arrow--
A laconic gesture but significant,
As if the water were some great attraction
To merit its own noticeboard.
So I follow the path and find
Not a pond, but a flat green sward--
That's what you'd think, at least,
If it weren't for the crooked length of dock
And the frozen serpents of tree limbs
Sunk halfway in that greeness
Which no wind stirs.
A useless bridge.
In the streambed (barely a scrape in the muddy earth),
A lone brown puddle quivers.
The bridge railing sprawls in the dirt.
It must have fallen down in despair
Of not having a purpose.
The path's riddled with roots.
Peering slate nuthatches,
And a woodpecker, snowy-chested--
Flitter tantalizing, irritated,
And at last drift elusively away.
Only a few enquiring mosquitos stay.
(And a pair of chasing squirrels, so obsessed
With their haphazard race
They do not notice I'm sitting on their bridge
Until they've scooted past and turned to cast a guilt-bright eye
On the danger they've left behind them.)
Seams, gleams of gold in the great emerald tree
(How I love the great emerald bulk of a tree
Alive and aware, yet monumental).
What is this sunlight only a few leaves can feel
Trickling down the rough fingers like some sort of honey?
A light that exists in the mind
Red leaf on the trodden trail,
Arresting as a stop-sign of the woods,
Alone among its kind.
A glance about reveals no parent tree, beacon-blazing.
Yet still the path is scattered with tiny flames.
Some humorous arsonist must be the culprit.
The end sweeps soon.
Before my feet are ready the path curves back
And drops me where I began,
Where my bike waits, a little rusty, still panting.
It's back to the road for me, back to the closed-up land.
But I have breathed with trees, and my soul is sated.
I carry a bit of the cloud-shaping wind back home in my hair.