Two voles hop rock to rock across the creek,

one falls in meanders oxbow rapids.

The rains come.


From red and brown soils yarrow sprouts, spring

rushes mark the water table,

meadow racket, woodpecker morning drill


downstream, dogwoods bloom,

bracken fern and false Solomon’s seal

decorate red fir and ponderosa footholds.


Bark beetles march over popcorn yellow fungi

rise scale Jeffrey pine plates.

Skin deep they bore a heartwood adit, and sap

spills smelling sweet as cream soda.

Browning needles, pine’s proud crown


its throne its rotting seat

takes in the kingdom,

breathes its fading season.


Below, a hard hat trio

dot the forest floor, men treeside rodents

crunch duff, one plucks the pine’s twig,

thumbs its fascicles to five,

motions to another who slaps sock, chalk-filled blue

against the trunk.


the last one carves a half-shaped boat

into the heartwood. Final slice and down

down it thuds rippling radius hard hats float


They tie ropes to the carcass and haul it away.


A storm comes.

Lightning veins drip.

Wind wings flames,

chars black oak, whose roots wait

underground to sprout new growth