Catoctin Mountain Park

 

He who thus considers things in their first growth and origin, whether a state or anything else, will obtain the clearest view of them.
—Aristotle, Politics (translated by Benjamin Jowett)

 

Look out across
the ridges of trees
flushed red
as if holding
their breath
to blue distance,
a wager made
with the sky.

Look out over
the Appalachians’
eastern rampart,
then scrap the word for parts—
before, prepare, fortify
to take possession of again.

On the road in, two wild
turkeys bustle off into
the brush.

Off the trail in wet leaves,
yellow eyes of a box turtle.

What I take
to be the stripes
of common shiner
in a riffle.

Alone, one might intone
whose woods, whose woods,
one might whisper
democratic vistas.

One might say
summit and Summit,
as elsewhere, but near,
are Aristotle’s other
animals—political—
at fenced and guarded
leisure, though the wind

passes as it pleases,
and when it shakes
the trees, it is not
an agreement at all.

More by Dora Malech

Each year

                  I snap the twig to try to trap
the springing and I relearn the same lesson.
You cannot make a keepsake of this season. 
Your heart's not the source of that sort of sap,
lacks what it takes to fuel, rejects the graft,
though for a moment it's your guilty fist 
that's flowering. You're no good host to this
extremity that points now, broken, back at
the dirt as if to ask are we there yet.
You flatter this small turn tip of a larger 
book of matches that can't refuse its end,
re-fuse itself, un-flare. Sure. Now forget
again. Here's a new green vein, another
clutch to take, give, a handful of seconds.

Aleph, Bet

In my favorite version, the man recites the alphabet
over and over, and when asked, he says he is praying.
He admits he lacks the words, but says perhaps if he provides
enough letters, God can piece his purpose back together.

The word is kavanah, translates to concentration or intent,
without which, the words lie inert. And with? Call it all rise.
The urge made agent, leavens the lips, tongue, throat, and eyes.
In other words, heart’s yes, yeast, or likens to, likewise lives,

needs no light to grow. What say the brewer and baker?
What of the grapes in the sun with the yes on their skin,
the blush or bloom? And what of this yes’s twin, the, as they say,
opportunistic pathogen? I don’t believe I know. I’d like to ask

someone who knows, summon my strongest letters together and say:
How long do you think you knew before you knew you knew? Or rather,
how long do you think you think you knew before you dressed
your I guess in the yes you said I do to, to know you know now?

Party Games

                        Might night right sight?
                                                —Andrew Joron

The first thing she did after we blindfolded her
and turned her in circles by her shoulders

was lunge
for where she thought her target hung

and hit tree trunk instead, with one strike
against it split the stick

in half to jagged dagger
in her

fists. The donkey gently swayed
within reach, barely grazed

and staring straight ahead with the conviction
inherent to its kind at the horizon

that a gaze
implies,

paper mane fluttering in the breeze of a near miss,
belly ballasted with melting chocolate kisses,

drawn grin belying its
thingness, rictus

of ritual and craft. She's grinning
too, and laughing, regaining

her balance,
planting her feet in a samurai stance.

She brandishes her splinter.
There's no harm in letting her

take another turn
without turning

her around again.
We think we know how this ends,

how good it feels to play at this,
violence and darkness,

the beast
that harbors something sweet.

Related Poems

Oregon Trail, Missouri

(November 9, 2016)

 

O trail up outta here, how long ago
            you started to wander, crawling milkweed
through dependence, in grope toward sprawl
            dominion. Rather red in your rove from southern transition,

thick of land use, what soft you carved of forest to get through
            once dirt and fur and blood of original American and bloody-scrape knuckles
of emigrant pioneer. O what you woke from sleep. Dogwood drift
            loud and settling toward expanse, like how a pride’s breath

            can move blossom to shiver and roll over false aster, shape
border from its river source, return to river as fat pocketbook, mussel
            of critical habit, long breather and muscular foot
under cypress and promise of tree. O path for packed wagon

            who dragged black slave alongside conduit, some salt
of new breeze, who swore deciduous freedom, and relented only upon lawsuit
            in new land you opened to. O route to burrow, you,
like pipeline, leak the grease of wayward stream. Trade off

            and pick off growth in the way. How used, you. When
blue-promised god, some Negroes took up pack and white man’s pack,
            and given distance of black body to statehood pith, only made holy
states away. O what became you was over, the leaving grip bragged
 
            all the way to the sea, already plundered and exhausted
of Shoshone patience and homesteading what hellbender
            you’ve become. What uprooted clearing. Stray cattle worth
whole encampments in fool’s dust and deed. O what haven from man

            who believe in America, only all to himself? Imagine

a way of shape that doesn’t strangle. An arbor
            of its very own leaf. Now, imagine
tern and piping plover that keeps expansion
            along its shore. A settlement for spring’s deliver, not pipeline.

Imagine redbud staying put in its breeze and keeping us safely
            strong as trees and dark as the bark of our open souls. Imagine
the park of evergreen surrender,
            to a calmer, blue sky our govern might protect.

Imagine bald eagle again, not because white-headed
            but imagine bird, simple body of eager sea, talons
stretched over gold proportion. In summers, thick shiner.
            In winter, undisturbed darter along somewhat snow, unstressed

by factory and loud humming fuel. O prairie of blazing star, imagine
            full caves of left alone, unraided buffalo
clover, unhelped. Unfringed orchid, unwestern. Imagine
            ground hallow, free to forage

its riverine root and plant vigor along the Missouri.