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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.

--Mark Levine


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