We Walk

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by Michael Shindler (March 2019)


Lovers in a Wood
, John Atkinston Grimshaw, 1873

 

 

We walk on the forest floor, you and I,

Beyond the bounds of lined fields and firelight,

Seeing only shapes of the wild and sky,

So that all the world seems one woodland-sight,

And we feel these shapes touching us gently:

The stroke of a vine, the tap of a tree;

We’re forgetting each plant’s proper naming,

Classifications we’ve learnt from reading;

We stop recalling the links and logic,

Accounts of the world’s internal working,

And I wonder—do you hear strange music?

 

Our thoughts become theaters where branches vie

With one another and warm lengths of light

Pass through thickets and potent shadows lie

Alongside flowers, without fret or fight,

And birds trill high above with guiltless glee

Within the whisper of the canopy;

Amid this mass of oaks, we are walking,

As they march up the hillside, enduring

Through every storm’s jest and every drought’s trick,

With their trunks swelling and branches soaring,

And I wonder—do you hear strange music?

 

Our father was here, where lost songbirds fly,

In the past, right here, in this selfsame site:

Right here would he laugh, right here would he cry,

Laboring by day and dreaming by night;

This was his home; this was where he was free:

One day our father climbed up high to see

The glory of heaven, the sun shining,

And when he climbed down, it was by hugging

The trees that he learnt to stand like this stick,

His feet on earth, his eyes upward looking,

And I wonder—do you hear strange music?

 

As we walk, we see things growing nearby

And shrinking and stretching without respite;

We watch the shifting of the clouds up high

Unworried with how they’ll next shift in flight,

But with a regard that extends broadly

To all these shapes that in dusk’s lambency

Seem to shift like one immense thing moving:

A petal in play with wind while falling,

A spider weaving where the grass grows thick,

A bit of lightning in clouds gathering,

And I wonder—do you hear strange music?

 

In both our bodies air is flowing by

Nutrients flowing down then up our height,

Surging with the air, with silence and sigh,

The dance of the forest’s diurnal rite;

Opposed things coming and going promptly:

You and I walking though the greenery;

Our bodies, our minds, our thoughts, are taking

Us deeper into the shapes of the thing;

That which makes the journey true and tragic

Is bringing us here, where all is growing,

And I wonder—do you hear strange music?

 

A little shaft of moonlight is guiding

Us through the still pines and past the stone ring,

We stop recalling the links and logic,

Accounts of the world’s internal working,

And I wonder—do you hear strange music?

 

 

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Michael Shindler is a writer living in Washington, DC. His work has appeared in publications including The American Conservative, The American Spectator, National Review Online, HillRag, and Providence Magazine. Follow him on Twitter.

Follow NER on Twitter @NERIconoclast
 

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