The beech leaves have fallen
in thick crunchy drifts.
I see how the forest
ages into winter
from the edges in.
I’m trying to see it all
my head on a swivel
when I realize
I can relax
put myself aside
and let it flow in
instead of pushing my senses out.

I open myself to the spirit
and maybe because
I asked nicely
and maybe because
I do her favors,
picking up trash,
and she accepts the effort
as the offering it is,
she comes,
immanent in the place
welling up
to meet the transcendence
drawing down.

She has a strong sense of humor,
especially placed as she is,
a cultivated wildness
in the midst of urbanity.
I know what a microclimate is now:
it’s warmer in the green alley
thickly walled with close-laced vines
that arch over the roof
clinging to a little warmer air
like an old woman pulling her shawl tight.
But where the leaves have fallen,
I can see her contours more clearly:
a ridge here, a furrow there
and her bones of mica schist
poking through the raggedy edge
of her fallen leaf shawl.

I ask her,
but what about Teddy?
Dear Teddy, bear teddy…
Oh, him, she says.
I don’t worry about him,
she chuckles.
And she doesn’t.
She’s an outsized monument
to an outsized man
but this is no San Juan Hill
and he doesn’t ride so roughly here
as to bother the spirit of the place.
I venture a tiny joke:
If this is your body,
maybe he’s your brazen cock,
jutting up in the middle?
She laughs and says maybe.
Maybe he’s my totem spirit.

I think about that
and see the larch
standing scarlet and alone
in the middle of the marsh
like the flame of a candle
guttering low
waiting for a fresh breath
to make it leap up once again.
She’ll breathe that breath
but not now
now it’s time to sleep
holding Teddy close.


[Background that may help you understand: TRI is short for Theodore (he of “teddy bear” fame) Roosevelt Island, my favorite park in the DC area. He’s got a bronze statue in a monument in the middle of the island, but the rest of it is a natural forest.]