Airsheds in Andrews Forest

In these plunging mountain watersheds, roots and biomass
hold the soil when the Pacific rains pummel the slopes
as stream gauges whir and jiggle.
When the clouds lift and the temperature falls,
the air advects and cold air flows down like water.
In that trapped air, Carbon 13 tells of the trees’ nightly work,
the stable isotopes inscribing cenotaphs in the data loggers.
If there were windows in these fir stands,
poets would insist on looking out at the air
to write about their advecting lust for a beloved.
But this is science, where carbon isotopes can measure
the exchange of cartoon hearts and cartoon eyes springing from sockets;
of pheromones, kisses, touches;
of our own heavy breaths shared in a prone embrace
like wind carrying pollen.


Geologizing in the H.J. Andrews Experimental Forest, Oregon

-for Fred Swanson

Bedrocks translate easily
in their nascent lava flows.

Even the pyroclastics tell
their exploded-rock stories.

But Cascade soil’s extinct language
muddles at cryptic horizons.

In stela landslides, unspeaking
ciphers jumble in the roots.

Then this lexicon reveals itself
in the soil’s downslope plod.

And we can all speak the legends
of geology in relearned tongues.


Ars Putesco

In this decay, the lumbermen see cemetery
deserts and semi-trailers of butt logs,

more monoculture and clear-cuts for even-aged stands
and best stumpage.

All their foresters mire the woods’ apogee
with timber industry craft.

But these “dead” stands breathe like an ancient couple
who spent their lives

in an old-growth citadel away from the vain egoists.
In these old Cascade conifers,

with six score of decomposing logs and mesh bags
filled with conifer needles,

the raconteur researchers narrate carbon and nitrogen’s samsara—
psalms of the Earth’s stores and sinks—

over the next two centuries, when what is written in slim volumes
will oust the selfish foresters.

Back in Indiana on German Ridge, the Forest Service craves
to speed succession to oak-hickory zeniths

with a clear cut and thinning, a couple-thousand-acreburn,
and more roads, like trite immutables.

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Three Poems & Notes

Kevin McKelvey is a poet and essayist who teaches writing, editing, and publishing at the University of Indianapolis. He has held residencies at the Writers’ Colony at Dairy Hollow, H. J. Andrews Experimental Forest, and Isle Royale National Park. Part of his book-length sequence inspired by the Charles C. Deam Wilderness Area in Indiana were published in Dream Wilderness, a chapbook. The Indiana Arts Commission awarded him a grant to write poems about Indiana’s Wabash River. He lives with his wife and two children in Indianapolis in a house built in 1890.