September 10, 2023, 7 AM ET
— After a visit to the Yaak Valley in Kootenai National Forest, Montana, where the U.S. Forest Service has announced a logging project called Black Ram
What is there to be done now, but enter
against abandonment, become a hollow sound
in the halo of labyrinthine green, become a crossed-
out word on the back of someone’s hand.
Once, all of this became
all of this. One not-yet-golden western larch
curves by a white pine, a white pine
curves by a western hemlock, no one here
is heroic. To enter here is to enter
magnitude, to feel an ecstatic somethingness,
a nothingness of your own name.
All words become wrong. A whole world exists
without us. But who is us?
Lichen, moss, grizzly scat, moose hoofprint like two
exclamation points by the drying frog pond.
How do you know you’re alive? What evidence
will you leave? So many myths
are unraveling; a yellow swallowtail glides by over
the sinless creek bed. A storm
wets the skin and we are surprised we have
skin. Woods’ rose, white-flowered rhododendron,
nothing here is unfinished. What it gave me? I saw
a new tree emerge out of a ground made of ancient trees
on top of more ancient trees, on top of more ancient trees,
on top of more ancient trees, and understood then
that this was how the Earth was made.
This poem appears in the October 2023 print edition.