By Lauren Camp
The forest stands at the door, a lone man in a light
green shirt. An owl sits in his hat, confessing
simple hymns that are scarfed into clouds. The man
holds a small box of baby birds and insects covered
in leaves. The pathway he took to town
is a small umbrella of gems: bloodroot and hickory,
trillium and oak, an avalanche of wise eyes sighing,
the constant monologue of hummingbird wings.
Stiff from walking such a distance through autumn’s
altar, his many limbs are twisted. He salutes me,
then gently stomps muddy feet on the doorstep.
Jays land on the muscles of his branches, breasts high,
churning their infinite tones. Spiders trace a path
along his long legs, up the dusty window of his body.
The forest man smells of pine and chocolate mints.
I wasn’t expecting him. He reaches out to shake
my hand; my arms tremble and sigh like aspen tips.
He is an old beekeeper – extremely tall
but hunched by wind. He has visited before;
he comes when I forget him, his taut body painted
red whorls and honey-felted mosses. Squinting, ridged.
The man has whiskers because all nice things
are whiskered, though most people don’t know this.
He speaks and I am wrapped in a blanket of his voice,
the tenor of his whisper, a hilltop, the drowsy light
of dusk. I lean in to hear better and the soft places
of my heart open. I keep busy then because the sound
is just what I need, and the sun continues beating.
I study the category of light moving aimless up
one side of my house. The forest man has brought
wild mushrooms and fresh raspberries. He pours
rainwater into my fanciest cups. Suddenly I am
ravenous for the clear taste of sky, for the unmappable
nourishment of dirt. We hike off together through
a trail of flannel trees, listening to each one
confidently building its next concentric ring.
Lauren Camp’s fifth collection, Took House, is forthcoming from Tupelo Press in August 2020. Her poems have appeared in The Los Angeles Review, Pleiades, Poet Lore, Slice, DIAGRAM and other journals. Winner of the Dorset Prize, Lauren has also received fellowships from The Black Earth Institute and The Taft-Nicholson Center, and finalist citations for the Arab American Book Award, the Housatonic Book Award and the New Mexico-Arizona Book Award. www.laurencamp.com