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 time-lapse mushroom clouds.
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 Terrain.org, Bill’s poems have appeared in Orion, Open Spaces, Rattle, and NPR’s Krulwich’s Wonders.