birds singing in the rain,
and though I’m far from home,
I’m home again – this time in
America’s most visited park.
Looking out from my accommodations
into a woods surrounding
a small clearing, a cemetery
of the farming families of
Sugarlands, this pristine ecosystem
with its mountain streams, wild
animals, so many insects and plants –
perhaps a mere ten percent so far
identified – I’m horrified to recall
how 85 years ago, this land became
clear-cut logging range So strange
now to take it all in, carbon emissions
from millions of tourists’ vehicles
taking its toll on returned native species.
Have we learned nothing from the past?
Too late I’ve arrived for synchronized
fireflies and May apple verdure at its peak,
along Cades Cove Loop Road, too early for
fall foliage along Little River – all good
reasons to return. Beautiful, ruthless nature
all around me – tragic history, numerous
numinous voices. Nearly hypnotized, I’m
mesmerized by the spirit of this place,
once the domain of the Cherokee Nation.
Be patient, something(one) whispers to me,
be willing to wait in the woods by the stream
for the bird, the tree to call out to you.
And when you hear the owl at dusk,
imagine his contact call is just
for you – that he sees right through
your screen to your desire.
And don’t mistake the rattlesnake
for an enemy. Breathe the trees,
the rain, the mist, blossoms,
mushrooms, mosses – and enter deep
into spiritual (actual) domains,
into deep ecology. Let your life
be renewed, risen from despair’s root –
here where all things thrive yet are
threatened. In the dark,
see what is right before you. Stop
the loss of light with all you’ve got.
Forget the next galaxy – focus on
the reality of this earthly home.
With gratitude, accept its gifts.
Poem by Diana Woodcock
Diana Woodcock is the author of seven chapbooks and three poetry collections, most recently Tread Softly (FutureCycle Press, 2018) and Near the Arctic Circle (Tiger’s Eye Press, 2018). She has two books forthcoming in 2021: Facing Aridity (a finalist for the 2020 Prism Prize for Climate Literature, Homebound Publications); and Holy Sparks (a finalist for the Paraclete Press Poetry Award). Recipient of the 2011 Vernice Quebodeaux Pathways Poetry Prize for Women for her debut collection, Swaying on the Elephant’s Shoulders, her work appears in Best New Poets 2008 and has been nominated for Best of the Net and the Pushcart Prize. Currently teaching in Qatar at Virginia Commonwealth University’s branch campus, she holds a PhD in Creative Writing from Lancaster University, where her research was an inquiry into the role of poetry in the search for an environmental ethic.