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  • Writer's picturejamesbriankerr

Let Me Sit in the Woods: A New Poem

As published in Short Story Town

Let Me Sit in the Woods


Let me sit in the woods and stare at trees.

Far from the din of the raucous city,

let me lay down roots amongst my kin:

the stately oak and quaking aspen;

the sacred alder and brooding cherry –

brothers, sisters, cousins all,

we join hands in holy communion.

I know them and they know me.

Before the blinking houses wake,

as dawn spreads slow to the east

(but what is slow to these boulders

that have seen eons?), let me leave

my boots with those who walk

and take my place on the east-facing slope

where the lemon warbler greets the morning

and the red-crested downy beats his drum.

Give me a week there – a month – a year

(what is a year but one more ring?).

Let me sit and sit and sit some more,

face to the sun, feet in the needled loam,

while the stillness soothes my rattled nerves

and the years close over these ugly scars –

learning patience from my elders,

their stoic acceptance of their lot.


Long have I labored in the joyless mills –

taken my place at the production wheel

that grinds souls into sacks of meal

to be traded cheap at the marketplace.

I want no more of that wageless bargain

of now for then and then for now.

I wish to know that which is timeless,

the lost ground that’s mine to reclaim.

Once as a boy, lost in some nameless sorrow,

I wandered alone through the woods,

when in the distance a wind worked up,

pushing through the trees like the sea.

Closer and closer it drew. Limbs bent,

knees bowed – my heart thrilled to the roar.

It seemed to me that the woods were alive,

infused with a wakeful consciousness.

My years away seem like a dream

of vain desires and dark imaginings.

My bones are weary, my feet hurt

from walking those halls of concrete.

I am no longer young but still I yearn

for the chatter of spring-fed streams

and the company of like-minded friends,

to be witness of all that I have missed.


And so as light reveals the day,

let me sit here with nothing to do,

nowhere to go, content in my view.

Let me rear back my head and warm

my face in the slow wheeling sun,

and when the day grows long and hot,

let me link arms with my neighbors,

extending shade to those below.

Let the squirrels build nests in my arms

and the owls use my roosts as vantage

for their nightly hunts. Let me scatter

acorns like coins for the hungry herd.

Let me watch deer mate in the brush,

not envying their freedom to roam –

mine is the greater profit to give them

shade and drop mast for their food.

Let the winds come – black bulbous clouds

scudding across swift darkened skies:

great nor’easters bidding all bow before

their fearsome power. My roots are deep.

Let the rain wash my face, fingers salving

ancient wounds. If lightning strikes a branch,

in time I will grow another – shooting forth

from the green fuse that fuels my flower.

Let me be a witness to all that changes

not in millisecond but in millennia.

The same tectonic forces that formed

these lichen rocks drive the marrow

in my bones. I in breathing do their work.

I in dying give them stuff. Like the trees.

So let me take my lessons until I return

back to the loam from which I sprung.

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