Wood for trees

I don’t know why
I find forests so intriguing,
more than open fields and plains
or even heaths, where as a child
I first found a playground in the wild.

Maybe it’s the promise of discovery
of things that cannot easily be seen –
secret places, covered ways,
fragrant with the scent of sap,
fresh leaves, humus, fungus and decay.

Somewhere, around another corner,
behind the screen of greenery,
a cabin or a cavern or a den,
some animal, that’s glimpsed for a while and then
is lost inside the labyrinth again.

These spirits of an older time,
whose skins are atlases of years,
whose dresses flatter for a while
and then are shed as out of date,
recycled with each season, not just dead.

Only when I stand next to the ocean
or view the backs of houses from a train
and stories I don’t know arise
and break like waves then the shore,
does this sense of strangeness feel the same.

The trees breathe softly, nod their heads and whisper,
holding up their fingers to the sun,
digging toe-holds tight into the earth
and, where they are together in a crowd,
make an emerald city next to none.