The Forest in Ruins (Written October 13, 2017)

The Forest in Ruins

I’ve found the card that she sent me
last Christmas, with a short note.
She was feeling much better, she said,
and hoped to be home in a few days.

A week at most. I wrote back,
though I knew it might not get there
in time. I told her about a dream
I’d had a couple of nights before,
in which she and I, along with ten others,

All from the same town, though strangers
to each other, were being led into a tropical
rain forest, where the foliage was so thick,
so lush, the sun had trouble getting through.
The trees had dark green, oval-shaped leaves

As big as elephant paws, and red flowers
of an intensity I had never seen before.
Parrots, perched high in the trees,
called to us in a language we could almost
understand. We let the others go ahead,

While we fell back, held by the beauty
all around us. At a fork in the road we turned
left instead of right, as the others had done.
We wanted to be alone. A few hundred yards
brought us to where a wall had been built,

Made of old wooden beams, to block the way.
Yellow police tape warned us to stay out.
But as there was no one to stop us, we skirted
the wall, through the thorny underbrush,
we were so curious to see what was

On the other side, like children who,
blindfolded, try to guess what will be revealed.
What we found, though, was a forest in ruins,
the trees stripped of their leaves,
many limbs ripped off and scattered

Everywhere, at odd angles to each other,
some standing almost straight up, impaled
in the earth by the force of the wind.
The animals had all fled or been killed.
Squirrel monkeys lay curled on the ground,

As if waiting to be born. Parrots
had been blown from their perches
and killed. Flies buzzed around the bodies.
There seemed to be no end to the devastation.
We turned and followed the path back,

The way we had come in. The sun beat down
very hard on our heads. The least spark, we knew,
could set everything on fire. It seemed we would never
get to the place where we had begun.

The Word (Written October 6, 2017)

The Word

Be patient, he reminds himself.
Patient. Give her a chance,
she’s trying as hard as she can,
though the word she’s looking for

Stubbornly refuses to reveal itself,
digging ever deeper into its
hiding place, the way some fish
dig ever deeper into the dirt
at the bottom of the sea.

Sometimes, when all else fails,
they drive to the mall,
which used to annoy him
but now, through her eyes,
he sees as a chance to get out,

Meet people, and feel again
that life is good, no matter
what she believes or doesn’t believe.
Life is more than she was
prepared to settle for,

More than television,
more than mystery novels,
more than long hours
lying in bed, or sitting
at the kitchen table, brooding.

If she doesn’t speak her mind,
nobody will know what she thinks
or what she feels. To find
the word, let it go.

Her Own Way (Written September 29, 2017)

Her Own Way

Her coat streaked with rain,
her shoes caked in mud,
her hair plastered to her skull,
where has she been,

And why has she come back?
She wanted to be left alone,
to make her own way,
her own mistakes,
and not always play

By somebody else’s rules,
which, in any case, never made
much sense, to her mind,
though she went along with them,
until now, so as not

To create a stir. Blend in,
she told herself. Remain calm.
What she really wanted
was to disappear into the woodwork,
the way a grasshopper, sensing danger,

Will disappear into the weeds,
or a bird, in a split second,
will dart into the trees.
The distance between here and there
is the distance between life and death.

I’m lost, she moans,
and will not listen to reason.
To argue with her
is to commit treason.