There is poetry hidden in the litter.
If I stay still long enough, a thirst
will take me there — Touch
fallen feathers long forgotten by the owl,
river-tumbled stones, one finger of a bat wing,
mound of silver lichen cuddled with twigs,
honeycombed bone of antler shed from
its pedicle, just after the velvet withered.
the times you carried my pack,
helped me cross rushing streams on a log.
Surely you know that I, too, have cursed
the young buck that rutted on rosemary shrubs,
because they were mine, and I had plans.
And I have scorned the bat in my rafters
because I felt fear, though I didn’t know why.
Yet I have welcomed the echoes of owls,
as if they were given to expand us,
and I never believed a tree would notice
its missing pieces, never knew that my boots
would matter to the lichen-covered rock.
Yes, I have swallowed more well- polished lies,
now stones in my throat, and I have come to love
a store of things that looked like ours for the taking.
How hard to unravel the passed-down lines
twisted into every sinew and synapse. How hard to
envision this planet where the ones who are gone
are the ones who were gifted with minds
that could plan and imagine, outlasted
by those who could not speak
their poetry in words. Listen
as trees carry on their conversations
in silence . If we leave it, the lichen will last,
turning stone into soil so something else
might grow. Bats will adapt as they have
for millions of years. Owls will still fly
with missing feathers. Antlers will thicken,
branch, then shed again. What is lost
will be forgotten, while all that remain
will go on making more of themselves
for as long as they can
Some time before our final apologies
when we are no longer lulled into believing
that we can own the future, let grief
become our lullaby, and hope
be redefined. Let us prolong peace,
if not our species, and not forget the layers
left lying in the litter. Attend
to what matters—the music of water,
patterns in a feather, a circle of hands
around the fading fire.
Elizabeth Landrum, a retired clinical psychologist, enjoys a quiet life with her wife and dog on an island in the Pacific Northwest. Previous publications include 3 Elements Review, Cirque, Grey Sparrow, Shark Reef, Soundings Review, and Southern Women's Review.