Sunday, May 10, 2020



The farmer preferred his squares,
The furlongs and the acres,
To these woods, but here he was

In the shadowy tangles
Even more repetitive
Than his furrows, but shapeless—

Or full of too many shapes—
Disintegrating masses
And lines that ended in gloom.

Wherever the farmer looked
Something living was rising
Out of something that had died.

He turned around and around
But the way back out was lost.
A little bird was whistling

But it was not a message
Or if it was, the message
Was, Stop listening for words,

Stop making your silly signs.
The devil can read riddles
Just fine with his evil eye.

You need to pay attention
To what has nothing to say.
But the farmer couldn’t hear

Such a message without words,
Not when his heartbeat hammered
The drum of dread in his ears.

On the farm life had a plan.
The farmer could watch the stars,
The stars that ordered the world,

That foretold each year’s return,
The seasons and the future.
Here dark things kept happening,

And nothing was guiding them,
And the branches blocked the sky,
And his stars were hid from him.


The seed-sower turns the wheel
To start the great shadowing
That grows the gathering wood,

Forest ready to return
As the last of the ice goes
And the oceans drown the coasts.

The ice now alive and dead
Will become woods and coastlines
Likewise both dead and alive.

What is loss in a balance?
What does it mean to vanish
And be replaced? Anything?

Because the sower’s work turns
Everything in the balance
And everything is replaced

While on balance everything
Remains everything, the same.
It means what’s lost is meaning

And what is made is meaning.
The rest exchanges places,
Ice or forest, meaningless.

And the forest of meaning?
That’s ephemeral, nothing
But eternal from within.

Once inside sower’s meanings
There’s no leaving shadowing,
No returning back outside.

Who means anything at all?
Meaning, we forget, is not
The same as information,

No more than life is carbon.
Magic, literally, is
An example of meaning,

Which is nonsense and absent
Of useful information
Except among more meanings.


And what holds this together?
A forest has no center
And every root is center,

Center, center everywhere,
A process with borders but
Unbalanced in dimension.

Centers are for villages,
For fields tilled in square acres.
The whole reason woods seem deep

Is that they keep uncertain.
Their boundaries breathe like sleep,
Except that dreaming wakes them.

In the trees, loss comprehends
How life and death are faces
Of a luscious balancing,

But to comprehend, itself,
Is to know comprehension
Is not part of that exchange.

Comprehension possesses
Creation and extinction
At one and another end,

Emerging from nowhere, then
Never returning again.
It tries to hold itself in,

Twists lines for preservation,
And in its understanding
Creates a kind of center

That is measured, serpentine,
A finite form of knowing
To swallow its own going.

Thus understanding sustains
Its patterns cinched in fiction,
Symmetry taking the place

Of infinite extension,
But infinite grows in it,
Rooting through each line of it.


Perhaps Arepo belonged
Here in permanent shadow,
And could leave his work behind,

That turning in tight furrows,
Those lines cut under the sun,
The sweat dripping down his brow.

Better these woods than that world,
All ashes and mud tracing
Back along the same plowed track.

In woods, a farmer forgets
Labor, harvest, and surplus,
And may become a hermit

Of no use to anyone,
Barely living, listening
To rain and wind in the leaves.

Arepo grunted and sat.
Although spirits haunt all woods,
They can’t fly through trees too dense

And have to fold their great wings.
Arepo was not afraid.
Lost, yes. Confused, yes. But brave.

Or mostly. His heart remained
The hammer of flattened thought.
Can a person simply change?

Can a simple person change?
Arepo drew up his knees
And hugged them to his chest. Wait.

It occurred to Arepo
The woods around him were not
Around his small square of farm

But were contained within it,
And he was still in the field,
Reaching the end of one line

And turning to start again,
And the woods were in his name,
And he hunched in his own shade.


Something’s always rotating.
Something’s always exchanging,
Which doesn’t mean it’s meaning,

Doesn’t mean it means a thing—
Yet every clean completion,
Each turn, springs weedy meanings.

Noise and information make
The necessary substrate,
As water and carbon make

Most of what amounts to life
But themselves are not living—
So information and noise

Are not of themselves meaning,
Which means that meaning is not
Preserved or pre-existing

But, like life, comes to being
And can vanish from being,
Leaving behind the decay,

Its noise and information,
Rich with potential meanings,
Like any downed trunk rotting.

The forest lies in the lines,
A phantom and a monster
And a natural being,

As life lay in the water,
Effervescent with hungers,
Enchaining the exchanging.

No one knows how this can be,
The ploughman lost in dreaming,
The garden turned to seeming,

The forest that is not woods
And no more itself alive
Than the rocks that birthed farmers.

The tidiest of circles
Tightened to a square of spokes--
Rocks grew lives and lives spoke ghosts.

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