David Roderick

Into the Empty Woods

he moves through dead-scrub and leaves,
between lindens stripped for winter.
Under the vaults of the creepers he moves,
and through a whole century of second growth
that shaped the land and everything beneath it:
the incrops of rock, the wells bled dry.
So much to lie down in. So much to cover
himself with as he moves out of sight,
as he walks back into a history that thrived
long before he had the legs to take him there,
the eyes to notice a moth on a limb
is a hologram, is a chute of light that bends
through the mind of a bird. Here is where
wings are hymnbooks, are precious gems.
And always the cones crunching under him
and his thoughts reaching past the salt licks,
always his head beneath boots of thunder
and lightning strikes. His eyes are closed
but he sees as a mole sees: diaphanous
bird calls, sounds to guide his blindness.
When rain strafes the canopies, he is involved
somehow with the ache they spread deepward.
Stiff and creaking, the trees are exhausted,
like rusted mobiles in the empty woods.
The sky surrounds it all like the inner dome
of a skull, and he stalls for a moment and waits
for the sight of a feather or leaf, for the random
flicks of the visible to break in on him sideways.

David Roderick
Into the Empty Woods is reprinted from Blue Colonial (The American Poetry Review/Copper Canyon Press, 2006).