To the wilderness you were born;
To the wilderness you shall return.
Opening eyes you saw not light, nor shadow,
But the blossoming intricacy of a trunk
Bifurcating into branch, then twig, even that
The home to some creature small and great.
What you first heard was not a mama’s hush
But the whisperings of the water, lapping
Toward you, then away, but always back,
With constancy as reassuring as if it had been
Its hand that cupped your tender newborn scalp.
Your first taste-smell came soon thereafter,
The mother’s milk you’d craved without the language
To name it – until it streamed in, and you wondered,
Had it not been there all along? You’d always
Known these things: the maple sap, the burnt leaf,
The pines with their clean sharp scent, the dirt,
Oh the dirt, its ripe newness, all possibility.
Infinity lies in the woods, and always has.
The lacy bright green of the fern another thing
Altogether from the shiny dark of the holly.
Painted white of the birch, sallow grey of the oak,
Nutmeg mulch underfoot. And then, just the sky -
What more glaring oxymoron? – contains more hues
Than one man (even you) could ever hope to know.
This is our elegy, this is our paean to you.
Ashes to ashes, dust to dust, et cetera.
We have simply scattered you home.
for Dick Proenneke