Rumors of this place will plead
with you to save your time,
to hoard your minutes like pennies
in a rinsed-out pickle jar.
It is only a loosened clove hitch,
crushed gray stone tying
wetlands to the aspiration of a ridgeline.
At best, a jogging path for those who never run.
Slow your pace, then,
to know these acres gradually
as a body you will come to love.
Circle them a thousand times
until your senses are a finger tracing every crease.
Know the cypress gutted by lightning
where the great crested flycatcher
wiggles in to decorate its nest.
Know the rash of pumpkin colored warts
pushing up through slick mud are chanterelles.
Know that you will contend with the deer flies,
the gnats and the questing ticks to pick them.
Know that the possums and maggots
may cheat you of your meal.
Know that everything in Bell Slough
is hungrier than you.
But come here anyway
with purpose. To find each thing
in its season. When the frog can see
its frosted song, it chooses silence.
The resurrection ivy’s green outlasts
the naked hardwoods, and the forest floor
is a yellow-red confetti. The bloated, hairy
snowflake bursting from the fallen sycamore
is bear’s head tooth. And the white lips
pouting from the dead stand oak are oysters.
And when there is only the smell of mushrooms
rising where rain gullies into the hillside,
stand absolutely still and study the ground.
Look for the clusters of acorns
the blackjack oak has tossed aside;
the horn of plenty may live nearby.
Fluted to the shape of orange flowers
on the creeper vines, they hide in molted grays and browns,
black trumpets pushing up like goosebumps
with the first breaths of winter.
Pick every one. Taste what hides
in this unencroachable tract of wild. Believe
the unwashed fragrance of these labors
is all you ever really are.
Scotty Lewis teaches and writes in Conway, Arkansas, where he earned his M.F.A. in Creative Writing from the University of Central Arkansas.