Beyond the Pines

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Once, a squirrel could travel from here
to the place the Kanienkehaka called
Beyond the Pines and never
touch the ground, not leave a track
for the People of the Flint to follow
like they stalked the white-tail deer.
From the River Muh-he-kun-ne-tuk
to Schau-naugh-ta-da the trace ran,
maybe where I follow the tracks each day.

I see where the geese have written
their cuneiform tales in the pond-side mud,
edited by the turtles’ tail-writ script.
I read the tracks of the students
on the running trail–the one
that runs for a time toward
that western place–like I’m one
with my Mohawk brothers,
trailing Englishmen from the Hudson’s shore
to where they’ll fell more and more pines
and tear down more of this
Haudenosaunee world.

Are their heels weighing heavier
in the dirt than their toes? Walking.
How deep? Carrying books.
Are their toes dug in, tossing behind
a spray of the history of their passing? Running.
Narrow feet? Girl. Two feet side by side?
They stood to watch soccer practice.
Four feet, two narrow, two wide?
Perhaps a longer story than this moment.

Two squirrels cross my trail,
skittering into their place there
behind that lonely pine. I stopped
to parse their tiny prints, and
wonder about who will stop one day
to ponder all these jumbled tracks
I leave.

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14 thoughts on “Beyond the Pines

  1. How well you have captured this pondering of trails, of history, of footprints past and present,(visions of you with your ear to the ground!) We too, are familiar with native American names such as the Abenaki, Wyandot, Pocumtuck, and your Kanienkehaka (Mohawk). It is something to imagine the woods and forestland all those years ago. I love both the history and the beauty that surrounds us here in the northeast. Really enjoyed this piece, Joe.

  2. Wonderfully honest, truly profound, this poetic journey is epic, and you leave us with pine needles & history clinging to our hungry lips, helping us to pine for forests long gone, for air long ago consumed, rarified, clean, uncluttered; taking a hard look at our present, at our dark stain on the Now; a fine ride through the centuries, and your tango with squirrels as the Mother Nature jug band serenades you is thrilling.

  3. who will read what we have to say, the tracks we left….that is one of the great mysteries for me that keep me writing…because you never know who will read…and the impact it will have on their lives…

  4. I think this is something that all writers & poets contemplate: who is going to read my stuff when I’m gone? Who is going to listen to what I had to say? This is a universally personal poem, Joe.

  5. I enjoyed the thought of squirrels jumping from tree to tree for miles without leaving a trail on the ground. Then in the end the squirrels running along the ground and the lone pine tree…what changes there have been and more to come as you insinuate. Good writing.

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