Counting the Forests
We had little to work with. That was his plan.
He was out until daybreak or nightfall or until
the re-appearance of his servant who had fled
to the mountains during the ice storm.
He was out; he was out and his voice
was gone too. We heard the streetcars scraping
down the hill outside his room; we heard the drills
pressing the walls of the blue quarry.
Day broke in the silent room. Pale shadows, brilliant dust.
Night fell in the silent room. Silence and the silent sky.
He was counting the forests. That was his plan.
He carried a sack of dried fish
blessed by his servant and cured
in sea-salt. His servant was near; he could hear
the terrified rasp of his servant's breath.
His servant was making the vigil in a mountain
somewhere in the ice-country; and the ice-country was vast
and blue and full of death-forms. So was the forest.
Here in the red forest which was a forest of birds.
Birds and dark water and giant red leaves
with voices in them; and the voices were outraged.
They swept towards him like tensed wings
with their shadows tensed above his likeness like wings.
And he ran from them and he could hear
himself through the nets of the trees; but the red
forest was vast and the trees were covered
with ice. And at the edge of the red forest
he could see into the stone forest and could see
the dead voices rinsing over the stone floor.
He had been there already and had taken count.
And he had counted the animal forest and the
burning forest and the weeping forest and the forest
of the Americas and the God-forest.
What could he say to his accusers?
In some ways they were always right.
He had little to work with. He set out in darkness
and in darkness we waited at the corner of the forest
for his re-appearance. So many forests!
Somewhere was a silent forest. Ice above, ice below.
Somewhere was a coldness with a rope in it
like the knotted rope at the bottom of his throat.