R. Kenny Vernon Nature Trail

A poem

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screen-shot-2016-09-30-at-1-04-58-pmRumors 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.