by Jason Christie
Bloodlust rolls over the forest floor. A small, thin intention fogs slowly between snow-laden trees. Wolves hunt and their scent speeds water into a quicksilver froth pushed as much by their desire as it is pulled by the moon. Night overcomes a kind of asylum for a more generous darkness than the cold would ever reveal. Time cannot erase what happens here, there is no time beyond sentences, nor can I imagine a wolves’ pursuit otherwise because the image is relentless in its control over my language. Blood red, the moon dives for the horizon as if afraid of what we might yet say of it all.
Moonlight shoots between the leaves and branches, slants jagged shadows onto the dark ground, and shackles darkness to reveal edges. Thus carved, sleek figures move through blue night mist, their images shine and fade as they stripe their way further into the forest. Listen: slow wing beats mark their retreat. The interior of the forest resounds with the noise of wind through their feathers when they scatter.
The wolves are not wolves. They are ravens. The ravens are rocks. The rocks are water. The water is a wolf. The forest disappears into mutability to reveal how terrible and necessary are names.
Unbend the tree from light that shines it, unhinge tree from itself, from words we use to describe it. A wolf whistles low and is gone.
So Much Dust
Trees fall, rivers fall and fail: Let water carry itself away. Arrogant trees fall, river falls, bends then fails beside the falls. Where rocks churn into dust then foam, animals translate their environment into a hesitancy when they talk. It keeps them frozen on loan, then it falls. The weather fails them, then it too falls. What is left when the snow melts? Only the hesitancy to mark the spot the forest fell.
Bells were the first sign to announce that the forest was surrounded. The sound burbled along mixed in with the river. The wind stopped. Trees leaned toward one another to form a bulwark and Ravens fell from the sky to writhe on the ground, rocks rolled together and turned their hardest side toward the river, wolves ran, panting, in circles all because of a faint, yet distinct ringing.
Vigilance in Language
A wolf tumbles through the forest and the trees clap wildly for the wind. When the river changes direction, the rocks vibrate themselves deeper into the earth for fear that an ancient mythology could resurface and destroy everything that makes the forest real.
After the struggle there are still a few leaves on the trees for the wolves to chant down. It always winters powerfully in the forest. The river remains obscure, newly frozen. Wind whips through branches to make them smack and rattle themselves bare, each against the other’s dry bark. The hard sharp crack travels through the crisp air to echo the fainter cracks of the ice on the river as it settles and chips away at itself. It is always winter in the forest. The cruelest hope is that the weather might let up and the terrible reality is that it never does.
Wind carries wolves past rocks and over the river. They howl in transit, past the forest boundary, in a language without syntax. Ravens purposefully misunderstand, if only to be able to say: “I am not a wolf.”
The last poem before the cliff. Awkwardly stuck in. Broken before the fall. Trees shattered, rotated and shattered. Such delicate lengths. There is no damage that cannot be healed. The last poem falls before the cliff. Thinks to itself: “I’m damaged, broken and awkwardly stuck in.” The truth is both beautiful and delicate like the soft shine of ice coating thin birch branches, or the sparkle of freshly fallen snow. They crackle before the fall. The cliff and what it represents. Immobility before all language, a sense there is not enough and yet too much. There is no damage that isn’t already also healed.
Nouns shift in the shadows, on the ground, cast by tree trunks as the moon moves. In the dark, a wolf tries to avoid all the glowing rocks because they have recently declared allegiance to the wind. Where the verb goes, the wind promises faster erosion for the rocks and has worked out a deal with the river. Of course, the ravens remain aloof mocking the complicated social negotiations from their safe height.
Zero Tolerates One
Ravens don’t listen to narrative, while rocks embody it and the river brings it to all that will listen. Wolves believe it is their birthright to create meaning from an insensate forest while the wind whispers everywhere whichever story is loudest.
The trees are leaving, they pick up their leaves and wolf. That the wolf, as an inappropriate dawn, makes a hazard of the river and wishes winds away. Our interrogative passenger, our raven, the morning is beaten black by your sad wings and also the long reach of the night. Rocks shied as we all are into a new mimicry of height, like trees.
A Prayer for Inclemency
The forest is almost without weather; almost, except it is always winter. Sometimes it snows, sometimes it clears and warms and the snow melts a bit. Other days mist causes a slight fog. It rains. However, the air is sometimes so dry that branches rub together and begin to smoke. But even then, under it all is winter. Weather has abandoned the forest. Like a community, they draw together, differences ignored in the face of such unified hostility, all hunkered down as dusk brings cold winds blasting off the meadow to break into channels on the trees’ first line of defense. Words escape. Words escape them.
A Version of Winter
Beneath fur, skin shivers taut, and beneath snow let the land stay still. Our hopes and fears keep trees upright. The sun waits till we breathe again to open today.
The trees crowd down low, form pinions for wolves to swing round. Ravens spend a day in the wind’s music to blunt the sharp point of winter, to dull the necessity of bracing against the freeze. It begins somewhere near the cliff, separate strains of sound that split and break against harsh bark only to splinter and spin into new orchestrations as unwitting participants move ever closer to the edge of the forest, to push back the meadow with their wildly different sounds marshaled by many unseen listeners into a singing.
Bare Ruined Chorus
Dry branches snap in the windy drone. Vents mist outline forms. Weather occurs despite an inadequate development. The animals, trees, rocks and river cower until the wind’s rough music passes and winter returns as a supreme invective force to organize the irrelevant yet social curves of the breeze.
Haptic ash-image settles with rain, drops into this sentence so thick you could taste it. Water sluices dead leaves along swift rivulets to the river and then beyond. Yet deep in the forest a haunt breathes from still pools and moss, the forest distilled, drained, its detritus deposited to brew and breathe, to permeate the forest’s unconscious, to hound the animals, hasten their paths away or around the marsh. It is dark there and interlocked branches block any light, spread thick into an impermeable canopy where the muddy air breaks then falls as a ghoulish mimicry of snow, almost as ash.
“I don’t trust the forest,” a wolf mused aloud. “What do you think you are?” the wind replied.
Enthrall and Appeal
It rings and closes. The forest clearing. It shambles and falls. The forest closes. Clearly, a peal and then quiet. Enthralled, everything stops and falls. It closes, low. And closes.
The forest persists as wolves move, ravens fly, trees creak, river runs, wind blows and rocks settle. The forest persists all of this. Its incumbency guaranteed by the needs of those of which it is composed. The forest persists. Snow falls again, cold. Snow tears bark from the trees, rips fur from wolves, freezes the river, forces ravens to ground, chills rocks to the core. When night finally comes, the growing darkness affirms the forest's transition from merely words on a pale page, sentences in a paragraph, into a persistence that becomes impossible to read.
Fire (the second disaster)
The burn against knowing keeps wolves huddled together in a tight circle. A hot wind blurs their cries into a shield even as it keeps ripping that shield away.
Communication pulls the fist tightly closed increasing proximity and anxiety. Space begins to appear; those last fleeting gestures to grasp, clutch, or establish a purchase ring desperate in the face of a solemn, irrefutable necessity. Tiny gasps, barely audible cries, shudders and gnashes mark its recession as sense becomes a monster bent everywhere in its master’s service. The forest everywhere.
Gridding the Jagged Territory
Let wind sing twilight, no sun reaches down to warm the wolves below the forest canopy. Let water run away from the city, rocks knuckle into the cold earth. Let the sky press against upturned leaves and rain fill any space between branches with patter, the ravens are quiet and awkward as they scratch for food. Harmony comes like a vile reminder to organize us against a dangerous tendency toward independence.
In the forest
The wolves machine, capture areas in names, their cartography breaks the forest, sheds light, spreads into sharp notes the warm bass wind. Our trees become and become trees against a harsh glare; their relief shows them to be thin and thinning. “We arrive in the poem,” the wolves will say. “We arrive every moment as if we were never here before.”
Snow falls like a curtain.