having lost the off-
spring in your step

you stare mutely back
at whatever comes

on a gorgeous morning
on an old woods road

that is itself lost
disappearing into the forest

finding again
that old quarry

where a chipmunk
has sunk a shaft

and a giant millipede writhes
her road-self
coiling and uncoiling

it’s cold
a nail leaks rust onto a sign

and a wolf spider sits
on folded legs

as good a place as any
to wait for the sun

its bliss-body
of light to pass

through the leaves’ refineries
and yes
turn to sugar


Thought for once I’d share the observations and notes that went into this, since they’re still on my phone:

  • a doe who lost her fawn to a predator doesn’t run from us anymore, wandering along the woods edge in what looks like a fugue state
  • a cold wolf spider waiting for the sun or possibly death, whichever comes first. I nudge her: definitely still alive
  • a chipmunk has reopened its burrow in the gravel road, right in the middle of the streamside track
  • a giant millipede pauses to writhe, its road-self coiling and uncoiling
  • The thing about old woods roads that really attracts me to them is that most of them never had any other destination. They were built to haul out forest products: first, charcoal for iron and the iron itself (quarried near the base of the mountain), then tan bark (hemlock and oak), building stone, mining timbers (chestnut oak), gannister, pulpwood, etc. I may not like the extractive nature of these industries, but I do like the idea of the forest as source of good things where all roads end.
  • Narceus americanus, giant American millipede or iron worm (!) can live for up to 11 years in captivity! Also:
  • “Other millipede species may lay 20–300 eggs, but N. americanus lay just one egg in a nest made of chewed leaf litter and excrement. The female millipede will wrap herself around the egg and nest until it hatches several weeks later, producing a millipede with seven body segments and only three leg pairs. The number of body segments and leg pairs are increased with each molting, and there is no parental investment after egg hatching.” (Wikipedia)
  • a nail leaking rust onto the white no trespassing sign
  • chipmunk burrow at the edge of a well-used hiking trail
  • do photos make better writing prompts than notes? yes because that doesn’t risk overdetermining the shape of the poem
  • “One manifestation of Sambhogakaya in Tibetan Buddhism is the rainbow body. This is where an advanced practitioner is walled up in a cave or sewn inside a small yurt-like tent shortly before death. For a period of a week or so after death, the practitioners’ body transforms into a Sambhogakaya (light body), leaving behind only hair and nails” (Wikipedia)