I go looking for my tracks to find a bear grinding them
with four paws raggedly turning the earth into sinkholes
filling with rain covering mud so sky can see its face
in a ring of pine around the perimeter of trees.
If I were the bear he believes me to be I would climb
the ripples through the cold wind to find a cave to sleep in.
I want the frog finding my tracks to lead me into swamp
water. I will stoop and mimick his leap and drink the muck
to fill the webs between my toes with rainwater to sip,
dazed, dreaming the beautiful will find a prince in my skin’s
scaly folds. Birds light and look like they sound if they are large,
a fox darts across the path, animals scavenging food
scowling men with their boar bellies filled to please the mad dogs
truant from garbage heaps. What could men do to become men
who need no masks to fool the forest in its leafy task
replacing the sky with canopy, the echo of steps,
an occasional cry from the little ones caught and killed.
Who knows what happens next in this nefarious, dark place?
Hunters slide through familiar thickets and stand up high
where deer don’t smell you first if wind can't catch your scent.
Leaves fall tattered to the earth, then the first snow falls
and lakes freeze. I wandered here many mornings lonely
for voices no human knows. I would invent words I hear
that animals seem to speak where they do not fear cold air.
Without wind in summer, sun is like a skillet on skin
aged that way. The sons absent from their fathers wade for fish.
Nothing burns that is not dead already. Muskies pull hooks
from the arching poles slithering through the callused fingers
of leisure. If this were jungle men would pay with their blood,
but it is the banal at noon tide, a trampled forest.
(18, 28 April 2012)
copyright 2012 by Floyce Alexander