Its emptiness lies
in the forest.

The canopy has yet
to echo conversations
with dear friends,
this lack of color
not a muted memory
of understory greens
dancing by a campfire.

The smell of decay
fails to call up laughter
as we found our way
out of haunted woods.
Driving by doesn’t fill
my heart with homeward
rides from potlucks.

The trees: a clique
of furrowed bark,
brown fissures
grayed by flat light.

In vain, I study
crowns and skins—
Black Walnut,
Osage Orange,
but without fruit
or leaves,
I cannot feel
their roots
or know
their names.

Which of you
will be the first
to learn mine?

Is it you
with puzzled paper
peeled to pink,
scab pulled too soon?

Or you—
bark hardened
to bear heavy loads
without cracking?

Or is it you—
spiny cones dangling
above swamp,
myriad of blueprints
waiting for the perfect
warmer, wetter,
for roots and shoots
to stretch tiny arms,
announce yourself,
wait no longer.