by David Wagoner, from Collected Poems 1956-1976
Stand still. The trees ahead and bushes beside you
Are not lost. Wherever you are is called Here,
And you must treat it as a powerful stranger,
Must ask permission to know it and be known.
The forest breathes. Listen. It answers,
I have made this place around you.
If you leave it, you may come back again, saying Here.
No two trees are the same to Raven.
No two branches are the same to Wren.
If what a tree or a bush does is lost on you,
You are surely lost. Stand still. The forest knows
Where you are. You must let it find you.
The forest has found me. As I sit here writing I smell wood burning. The forest is burning. Burns Bog is burning.
We saw it this afternoon as we drove towards Vancouver. A grey vortex that spiralled skyward into an ominous towering cumulus. Like a mushroom cloud it threatens life. Like a mushroom cloud it was made by us. Listen. The forest reminds us of our greed, our carelessness, the devastation we humans created and now cannot forget.
Burns Bog is a wetland stretching 3,000 hectares along the Fraser River in Delta, BC. It is home to “175 bird species, 41 mammals, 11 amphibians, 6 reptiles, and 4,000 (approximate) invertebrate species.” Somewhere between 50 and 100 hectares is burning. It is home to several rare and endangered species including the “peregrine falcon, the Southern Red-backed Vole, the Pacific Water Shrew, and the painted turtle.” Burns Bog
Here and now, Burns Bog is burning. Stand still. Listen.
The forest has found me. Here in the stillness.
But it is not still for the forest.