SUNY Jefferson
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Ed DeMattia

’Neath the ancient pine he sits
waiting, watching, ears open
to a rustle in the leaves
the snap of a twig.
He once knew all the words in
the landscape lexicon, enough
at any rate to understand what
he saw and to describe it at another time.
Lately his feebling mind balks at the naming
the classifying: he desires only to observe
without language, lest the label
become the object of his perception.

The woodland denizens know him
he needn’t address them any longer
no Odocoileus virginianus, or Quercus rubrum
need prevent him from seeing the thing itself.
He apprehends the label as obfuscating
the real entity before him,
like peering at nametags at old reunions.
Familiarity suits him now.
He protects himself from forgetfulness
avoids the annoyance of having to recover
what he had failed to recall,
the minor frustration of trying to rebuild
the memory bank.
He desires pure enjoyment now
of seeing without separating specimens
by their artifices.

How do trees or birds address each other?
Do they have the labels we have?
Trees talk through chemicals, via fungi, roots,
filaments he knows.
The birds are beautiful mysteries to him.

He hopes now he will be found
here on his folding stool
his back to this or another woody stem,
walnut perhaps, or in the alvar grasslands of
the North Country, admiring the limestone
clints and grykes that fascinate him,
where prairie smoke dwells,
where the upland plover nests in the grassiness,
that ethereally elegant avian with doe eyes.
Or maybe where he finds
  the rare ram’s-head lady slipper
or the cluster of yellow orchids he lusts after.