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Bernheim Forest

Today’s forest floor, a terrazzo
of copper leaf. The remaining scrub
also copper: copper breath, penny
breath, too faint to call it rustling.
The mother trees of summer—
those iron lungs—streamed oxygen
from paps that swayed sweet
rock-a-byes in green blouses. But now
all is brittle air. Underfoot snap and crack.
And all crowns, by necessity, forget
what lies shriveling at their feet.

What’s imperishable is perishable
piece by piece. The soaking rains,
the split and suffering bark, the sink-
hole in the dirt assures it: green to gold
to copper to fade. Here is not Florida. Here
winter’s point is blunt. Juice and fondle
give way to December’s iron chop,
and the forest lives because it dies.
How’s that for conundrum?

But now, there is only now
and this walking. My fingers, numb.
My breath, a magician’s string of scarves,
or my own good ghost rehearsing
how to vacate her chilly rental. Five o’clock
and the air tastes of pewter. Tonight
the sky will contract, tightening in a thin-
lipped grudge until it cannot help
but ease itself down, giggling in white
and whimsy. And once more
before I quit this place, I will scarf and
boot and bundle up, to greet the mothers
shawled in white wool, and leave my prints
in the buried patches of copper made soft
by such fine soaking. Intaglio. Art to last.

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The Image archive is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.

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