Three Poems by Bill Yake

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Half the Forest is Night

for the creatures of old growth


Half the forest is night. Inaudible.
Yet for the adapted & adept, starlight
and skritches must suffice.

And listening near truffle-flesh, night-lives
hear the faint, faint gnawing of subterranean
voles, the squirrel that glides in,

scurries upward, then glides again. Each life
a risk. The owl’s beak breaks into large, dark
minds. Squirrels’ incisors break

into the thrush’s equal eggs. Under the long
rains moss and lichens swell. Half
the forest is now water.

Warm-blooded lives retreat: bats tuck
beneath slabs of bark; gliders go back
to moss-packed nests.

The rain-full air sweeps between monumental
fir boles, not half so dark nor half so silent
as that nest of moss

where a dozen gliders warm their blood,
their huge eyes dark as star-globes,
interstellar space.

This half the forest is less ours,
even, than the day’s. We barely know
its possibilities,

our own, our dreams.



To Fungi & Their Hosts —– the Intimates

Oh you, the living & damp
            the fungi desire to lie with you.
Oh you, the expired & seeking exit—
            the fungi reach out
            to break you down.
Oh you ancient blue-greens—
            the fungi wish to meld with you
            flesh to flesh & flourish.
Oh honey and barley—
            the fungi yearn to promote
            your Dionysian transformation.
Oh finest fir roots—
            the fungi seek you out
            to knit, parlay & thrive.

Humble-seeming pilgrims. Penetrants.
            Nets & nests of filaments, brews of cells.
We praise your frothy heads of mead            
            & bow before your humped-up
fruit-swells of fog & forest soil—
            your original



Encountering the Owl

. . . What I came to say was,
teach the children about the cycles.
The life cycles. All the other cycles.
That’s what it’s all about, and it’s all forgot.
         – “For/From Lew”, Gary Snyder

Silent and dappled as the forest itself—
that placenta, that rich compost,
that graveyard.

Start anywhere. Ground slope litter—
needle duff, the forest floor strewn
with big wood, wind-thrown roots and rot—
equal parts earth, water, air, the slow fire
of decay. Conscious-netted-fiber-bodies
of fungi encase threaded fibril rootlets

of hemlocks & monumental firs. They trade
sustenance from earth to tree, tree to tree,
tree to truffle. The earth’s become a kind
of skull for all the fungal nerve-and-synapse-
like weft-and-webbing that fruits the hidden-
truffle-scents guiding-in the gliding squirrel,

the red-backed and long-tailed voles,
the spotted skunk. All night it’s search, scurry,
harvest, gnaw. Spread the spores with whiskers,
scat, furred and trailing tails until the owl,
its flight feathers muffled with fine serrations,
seizes one more less-wary or less-nimble meal

of forest flesh for the long night’s sustenance
and the nest’s fledglings. All this will be returned—
bones coughed-up in pellets, vole scat
sprouting saprophytes, blow-down softening
into nurse logs, the owl’s feathers fanned flush,

silent and dappled as the forest itself—
that graveyard, that rich compost,
that placenta.




Bill Yake lives on the verge of Green Cove Creek Ravine–a small chum salmon stream feeding the Southern Salish Sea near Olympia, Washington. His books include This Old Riddle: Cormorants and Rain (Radiolarian Press, 2004) and Unfurl, Kite, and Veer (Radiolarian Press, 2010). In addition to, Bill’s poems have appeared in Orion, Open Spaces, Rattle, and NPR’s Krulwich’s Wonders.

View video poems by Bill Yake also appearing in

Header photo of forest by ekohernowo, courtesy Pixabay. is the world’s first online journal of place, publishing a rich mix of literature, artwork, case studies, and more since 1997.