Where forests fill in

as overgrowth and cover, some land
must have had to pay: villages razed

to the ground by war or conquest,
reduced to ciphers that won’t show
up on maps, much less in history

books— What persists is
what hasn’t been killed off yet
by famine, epidemic, or blight:

maize, perhaps; or the potato,
proliferating in more than a hundred
varieties underground.

And that myth of the forest primeval,
that paradise drenched in sun,
free of disease, with no hint

of even a little ice age
looming on the horizon? Stories
we’ve told ourselves to make it easier

to go to bed at night, to cull
from the pod the cotton used to fill
bales, pillows, eiderdowns; to justify

boat-loads of bodies forced
from some other shore—
Bargained for, numbered,

sold; tempered like tools
and set to work, indentured
in the ancient fields.


In response to Via Negativa: By-Catch.

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