Without our walking there, the landscape might dissolve.
His trees were young. A drought-summer spark had cleared
The western third some time ago, and when he could,
He meant to have that forest back. He planted spruce
The size of children's pencils, fifteen hundred sprays
Of evergreen, each year as spindly as the last.
It hurt to watch him tearing up the ones he'd lost.
We carried water from the brook sometimes. It sluiced
A dozen clotted paths, where once an ancestor sliced
The forest open, and oxen, yoked, had dragged a road.
This was ours. New Hampshire, north of us, was broad
And diffident as France. With vague disdain, at six,
I knew our woods were better-even my burdocked socks
Belonged to Massachusetts. And I loved our field
Whose hundred-year-old hair had not been cut; it filled
With captivated birds. A thorny orchard kept
A dozen wizards prisoner. I watched their script
Of runes engrave the granite sky with ancient debt.
Everything the woods could teach, my father taught:
Delight, exactitude, a faith, his journeyman's doubt.
From THE SQUANICOOK ECLOGUES (W.W. Norton & Co., 1987)