American Landscape

Forest during daytime

For Henry Glassie

If you want to know what happened,
throw stones in the forest until birds forfeit
the trees and clouds tear open, letting

the sky loose again. Control what you can—
whatever you can’t must be taken away.
Birds die, trees must die faster. Their roots,

giant tongues that fed off your land, their
October branches, thick cow-russet, color
of cringe. Lean into the forest: oak, chestnut,

hickory. Force their threatening shadows
into the ground. You now have a clearing.
“A good tree, a dead tree”— slice its backbone,

skin its bark. How you’ve dreamed of this
capture: the end of the hunt, buffalo-still.
But listen: branches are drumming,

planning counter attacks. You must build a
lair of your own, with spines at attention in
split rails and clapboards, to protect you from

trees. Then seal yourself in to watch white
pine and sugar pine, poplar and cherry, shrink
like bands of thieves from moonlight.



Poem by Priscilla Denby


I am a retired academic/professor who studied poetry under Ruth Stone and have had poems published in Poetry Northwest and other magazines and won the Academy of American Poets first prize at Indiana University many moons ago.