The Dark Green Conifers

another day in the woods. on Strawberry ridge
looking out over undulating green hills to
the next great wall ridge of mountains. the last
morning clouds left from last night’s storm
hanging in the valley mistily. the sun eventually
burns them away.

the respect between old Paul Karlsen and I continues
to exist. even though he’s a Mormon and I’m a fallen
New Yorker. the work is comparatively easy, lifting
hundred pound bags, so you can just imagine what
we do other days. in fact, it’s fun, especially for
young Bates. we get all white (and our lungs dusty).

on the way to and from the work site I read
in Silent Spring, the chapter against herbicides, gathering
inspiration for the upcoming controversy. in the end
perhaps I’ll be fired for refusing to lay down Tordon
beads. realizing this, as I drive with Bates,
I see the dark green conifers and begin to miss them.

                                          rocks and rattlesnakes, bluebells
and mountain daisies, grasses and cactuses, mahogany
bush, lodgepole pine and quaking aspen, lush forest
and dry sun-tortured mountainside, wind and seed
carried by wind, ants, streams, hummingbird
and hawk, deer, badger, ground squirrel, wolverine.

Snake Creek

Tired body aches. Long walk on starry night–
ears attuned for bear at creek, or cougar.
Nothing, not a doe.
                             But that afternoon
came upon a healthy young buck in a meadow.
High up. And a hawk left a feather for me.
Old, old stands of lodgepole pine, grey bark
like wrinkled hides of elephants. Thick carpet
of dead needles.
                         Thirst. Sit at snowbank
for an hour eating snow. Burn tongue.
To soon after stumble upon a pond and the place
that a creek springs from the mountain. Water
indescribable. Eat ravenously and drink deep

Climb highest rocky peak at dusk. Razor-back
ridge. Mother hawk scream nearby. Must
backtrack and then go straight down near dark
feet fall through layers of scrub pine, hands
grab for the live stalks only support against
broken bone.

Choose steep narrow bed of loose rocks,
surely waterfall in some other season and descend
on ass and all fours, feet first always fearful
it will end in an uncontrollable hundred foot drop.
Trickles of water nearing bottom.
                                                      Cracked hands, raw
behind, cross final snowbank and attain road
along Snake Creek.

Geese in Winter

Full of courage, winter,
geese fly north. The car
almost wouldn’t start.

Drive along the Mohawk
flood plain. Cattails, grasses,
no doubt ash and elm.

Restful tans and browns.
Flat, low, but still city.
Arrive at the interview.

Corner of State and Clinton
luminous blue corporate logo
between empty store fronts.

That they might not offer me the job
and they might, make me equally sad.
Fly in formation, life for pay.

Young, my boast had been
distances and heights traveled. Now
any road serves well

as the long narrow road to the north.
The cold, quiet solitude of that road
would serve well too.

The story of Sally, the story of John.
It takes an advanced, healthy economy
to produce science and technology

but aborigines may track animals
and draw symbols in the sand, give
each cloud and bird and tree a personal

secret name. And explain according
to a logic for which we need equations
how geese in winter flow north today.

Robert Ronnow‘s most recent poetry collections are New & Selected Poems: 1975-2005 (Barnwood Press, 2007) and Communicating the Bird (Broken Publications, 2012). Visit his web site at Cover photo credit: Ed Suominen