Rock Creek Park

a forest winds through the heart
of the empire’s capital

where i was born more than half
a century ago

great white mother oaks
hegemonic in their own way

keep the soil just right
for oaks and hickories
tulip trees and American beeches

though English ivy is still a menace
with its hooks and ropes

and where a pair of oaks have died
invasive wineberry creeps in

as do i through a corner park
watched by security cameras

a yellow-bellied sapsucker
sounds his vuvuzela

joyful shrieks of children
from the tower block housing
echo through the ravine

the Rockefellers have added razorwire
to their perimeter fence

beyond which the trail
gains signage and blazing

in the soft light
of an overcast winter day

beeches and people seem cut
from the same gray felt

dead leaves still cling
like worn-out slogans

some twigs brandish antiflowers
of sooty mold fungus

where aphids must’ve insinuated themselves
between bark and bite

chunks of a broken jack o’lantern
decorate the hillside

the creek below making
an understated thunder

through its namesake rocks
blowing bubbles

a song as slow and deep
and bone-weary

as one might expect
from the ancient core

of mountains that had to die
for the Appalachians to rise

now the park service builds ladders
for the fish

a beech tree growing where
a flood took out the bank

perches on a skeletal mound
of thin-skinned roots

nearby a gray squirrel
with black fur noses about

watched by a figure
in a black hood and cape

who half-turns at the sound
of my camera’s shudder

and i begin to feel the cold
through my thin-soled boots

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