place now left to squirrels and possums, to slopes of slash and loblolly, then to me come to kick off my sweat-wet jeans.
Here teenage lifeguards once looked down from their high, protecting chairs.
Chairs’ ladders rise in raggedness of rungs gone, dry boards in a green forest given way under weight maybe of boys’ feet fugitive from school.
My bare feet have walked where other feet walked sinking in the same mud of lake bed.
Down these banks, boys waded in trousers. Young women in dresses waded past their waists barefoot into falling. Each fell, immersing breathless in baptism.
I’ve stood with a shore’s congregation, singing from a hymnal I held that others didn’t need . . .
river where bright angel feet have trod, with its crystal tide forever flowing by the throne of God . . .
words rising as a world taller than heartwood, as though we called to angels flown
away to high and perfect thrones . . .
we are climbing Jacob’s ladder—we are climbing higher, higher . . .
Each trunk climbed, aspiring to outdistance, branches fanning to crowd out rival trees, greed reaching to drink daylight.
Night sifts moonlight’s grays down through branches’ deeper sheltering of dark’s unseeable.
Into these later shadowings of trees, gray forests swell out—float out— for now, for me
as one page’s photograph, gray afterimage, will float from a blur of pages turning, flashing a book-bound history.
I swipe at eye’s sweatdrop stinging.
The ghost book opens.
The night book’s spine
binds a blur through summer’s swelter of night heat’s mind.
The pages whir, cascading. Cataract flash of salt-burn’s eyelids flutter
as dreaming eyelids will flutter.
Grainy gray again
brightens to green, in sun.
In sunfall, shade of longleaf sways dappling through the swaying of wiregrass and bluestem,
forests falling into fields of sun-battered stumps.
Grain’s strength coils from slow rooting, to topple to coarse grain’s surge of loblolly.
The grasses’ tall seedheads plow under, trunks lining tractors’ rows of the crops of loblolly,
millennia hurrying to board feet’s and sawdust’s sudden economies.
Then shoreline’s pines breathe night, their patience rooting in the longevity of my sweat-stung blinking.
Then my eyes clear.
In my hearing,
no cacophony of frogs pulses night.
No owl’s husky notes mark moments.
I think they call silence. I think their hush
parts a way, opening.
I stand with pines
opening their commonness of green, as each tree stands, green shrine—
plain shrine among plain shrines.
Wind will pour clearer than water.
Wind will rise again as the sound
of ocean, tidal, if only through a shard of a forest,
needled branches of lost forests again whispering unhearing wind’s
hymn of time like a pine rocking heavy and high through centuries.
The lake’s breadth wavers, patting the shore, lapping
blurred syllables whose quiet
First night washed out to a world swimming
into the sheen of stars through darkness.
Each pine rises, each axis revolving the stars.
The branches open as bones of wings, where
they climbed. They hover, risen into waiting.
Roots seep through soil, burrowing to water.
Mud’s bed like hands cups the lake’s water.
I pass the leaning chair of a lifeguard,
boards born from the being of roots drinking, sap rising,
nails rusting in a ladder’s dry stigmata.
Rungs remain waiting for no future climber.
My walking becomes the feel of the cool.
I walk through my being held in beholding.
Dark’s shimmer dimples like woodgrain quickening.
I enter, wading naked through water’s waver,
to push out, feeling feet glide from mud.
Lake’s nakedness offers flight lifting through water.
Gleaming arms rear on sinews of shoulders
rounding to crash down, churning in bubbles.
Torso’s warmth rides the wingbeats
in sheen of starlight’s bodiless eon.
Joined feet batter the surface that shatters.
The coolness surrenders a body to baptism.
An absolution is branches, mud, water.
Arms oar origins from water, through water.
A self ripples rings widening as worldself.
I ride the feeling of the will of a vigil,
palms arcing down as though to catch rungs
hidden in water— shouldering farther—
arms feeling arms row scattering shower—
winging with water.
Note: Of the vast, lost Southern forests, Lawrence S. Earley wrote in Looking for Longleaf, “Almost all of the old-growth pine forest is gone − perhaps 12,000 acres remain in scattered stands. By any measure, longleaf’s decline of nearly 98 percent is among the most severe of any ecosystem on earth.” Dan and Ellen Corrie have planted 60 acres of longleaf pine and native understory on their South Georgia farm.
Daniel Corrie’s poetry has appeared in The Hudson Review, The Nation, Southern Review, and Virginia Quarterly Review. A poem of his received the 2011 Morton Marr Award from The Southwest Review.