“…What I came to say was,

teach the children about the cycles.

The life cycles. All the other cycles.

That’s what it’s all about, and it’s all forgot.”

For/From Lew, Gary Snyder

 

Silent and dappled as the forest itself –

that placenta, that rich compost,

that graveyard.

 

Start anywhere. Ground slope litter –

needle duff, the forest floor strewn

with big wood, wind-thrown roots and rot –

equal parts earth, water, air, the slow fire

of decay. Conscious-netted-fiber-bodies

of fungi encase threaded fibril rootlets

 

of hemlocks & monumental firs. They trade

sustenance from earth to tree, tree to tree,

tree to truffle. The earth’s become a kind

of skull for all the fungal nerve-and-synapse-

like weft-and-webbing that fruits the hidden-

truffle-scents guiding-in the gliding squirrel,

 

the red-backed and long-tailed voles,

the spotted skunk. All night it’s search, scurry,

harvest, gnaw. Spread the spores with whiskers,

scat, furred and trailing tails until the owl,

its flight feathers muffled with fine serrations,

seizes one more less-wary or less-nimble meal

 

of forest flesh for the long night’s sustenance

and the nest’s fledglings. All this will be returned –

bones coughed-up in pellets, vole scat

sprouting saprophytes, blow-down softening

into nurse logs, the owl’s feathers fanned flush,

 

silent and dappled as the forest itself –

that graveyard, that rich compost,

that placenta.

Bill Yake now living among the fir and redcedar forests bordering the Salish Sea, was born, raised, and first educated, where eastern Washington pine forests grade into the remnant black hawthorn swales and eyebrows of the Palouse Hills. His poems have been published in books, magazines, and anthologies serving the environmental and literary communities — from Orion to Wilderness Magazine, from Poetry to Open Spaces Quarterly, from Wild Earth to ISLE. They have also been featured on NPR programs, including Krulwich Wonders, and are collected in This Old Riddle: Cormorants and Rain and Unfurl, Kite, and Veer, both from Radiolarian Press.