Journal of Writing & Environment

You misread the monuments

as imperatives: If work stops, 

value decay. Never try. Never 


win. Get a dog. Advice too

late for settlers who found

this land, dug their cellars


on all fours out of untillable

soil, shelter from the widow-

makers and wars this thick

forest held up, threatened

to let go of. What hid here


turned into howl, a ribbon

of witches, wolves solid

as tables, a crow shot dead

on the edge of a battlefield,

a silver sleeve button dug

from a leg. A fee of fish


carried from the cape wet

and flapping was a curse’s

compensation that, unpaid,

would freeze ox hooves

to the road, so you walk

clear of the smoldering

picnic, past the holes

historians enumerated,

mapping only absence,


a bad attempt at cemetery.

A body can’t be buried if

the ground won’t soften up.


You watch your step, listen

for the black birds breaking

branches on their way down.