Old tree covered with green moss near fresh grass with mushrooms

There is a body somewhere in these woods.
We follow the dogs’ noses, prod deep into hollows
where the land holds the memory of bygone trees.
Our probes break through the ribcages
of buried pines; our boots scrape away
the forest’s skin, rich humus deep as my wrist.

Somewhere beneath my feet could be a body.
This earth knows a murder, or a thousand.
The loam is rich with all life’s stages
and the land rolls and swells with inhumed history.
Running cedar traces the skeletons of trees,
mapping their buried bones in verdant green.

In these woods everywhere is a body.
Dig anywhere and you will find the bones,
enshrouded by the rootlets that drink their carbon.
A hermit thrush eyes me from the ribcage
of a downed cedar’s tangle. And with all this death
I can’t see this place as anything but beautiful.
Everything that has happened here makes it abundant
with life, that steady and simple miracle.
I don’t mean that it’s wonderful to kill, but
a forest dies a thousand daily deaths
and each creates something greater than its life.

This place, these buried bones sing of the future.
We leave without unearthing the past.



Poem by M. Stevenson


M. Stevenson is a writer, educator, and naturalist. Her writing has been published in Poets Reading the News, The Florida Review, Watershed Journal, and others. She is a citizen of the Appalachian bioregion.