After the Sipsey Fire
There’s an irrevocable hush, now,
some forced solitude.
Too much ash-drift flushed
into bitter piles, silence
except for the crow-cackle,
far too symbolic.
Where is the carnage now?
Wherever the smoke goes.
Where it rose, and settled thick
into bottoms where only tupelo
gum and cypress could take a hit,
mingled with rain-weary mist,
oil in water across the shallows.
Maybe in the quiet this world
seems clearer, not renewed,
where atonement comes not by fire
but through what is missed:
the easy curve of bracken fern,
their fingers quivering, leprous.
Morning at Tiller's Beach
When wind meets sandstone
it bruises, fractures, splinters
into rain-streaked crevices,
ricochets off scree,
and settles in trout pools
still rent with speckle.
The herons know this.
We watch them with baited breath:
Waking under hemlocks
weighty rhythm—salvation wrapped
in ironies: hard-fought as gneiss,
slippery as moss-sheathed heartwood,
so slick only the truly penitent
shall pass. And looking skyward
we felt the familiar swoosh
of xylem on tent-roof nylon
and wondered—how many mornings
had these trees simply been trees?
How many Sundays in the woods
does it take to turn one a heathen,
made of more stone and damp earth
than purest blood, the sum of all things
but of nothing, wholly?
Listen. There is grace, there
in the emerald needles swinging, calling
come home, sinner, come home.
Wally Smith is a biologist and poet (not necessarily
in that order) living in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. His poetry and essays have
recently appeared in Appalachian Heritage, Forest Magazine, and others.