We have our mercies to perform,
The abandoned wild, wild because
Abandoned, down by the old tracks
Cutting through the body, cutting
Through memory, the scruffiest
Of last century’s New Jersey.
We are the wilderness inside
The body, metropolitan
Areas’ scraps of leftovers,
Carpenters’ corners, pastry dough
Edges cut off subdivisions,
Where the remaining fungus grows,
Restocking the green in between.
When you were a boy, too crippled
For track meets, long hikes, or baseball,
Too sunk in science-fiction books
To carefully observe what looked
Useful only as a portal
That would open on a magic view
Of a landscape not New Jersey,
A fairytale forever new,
You used to visit us weekly,
Daily when the weather was good
Thanks to summer or recent snows.
You would climb down so carefully,
Afraid to snap a branch, a limb,
Until you were all the way in
Where feral cats hunted and bred,
Where you collected garter snakes,
And the sluggish creek kept its bed.
Now, between deserts and mountains,
Now, swimming the clean glacial lake,
We’re just sunken explorations
You carry along inside you,
Reporting back from every part
The state of your abandonment,
The only honest wilderness
That ever was, you ever knew.
The primeval’s not the pristine
But what, once forgotten, regrew.