White Woods

Gentle graupel in the aspen grove
where many trees have also fallen,
bark peeling, drunken leaning
on others, angles reminiscent
of the makeshift forts of youth.
Leo lost his collar on a branch, dodged
my effort to slide it over his face,
whitened with age, ID tag tinkling.
Except for a few sawed off limbs
that otherwise would have interfered
with the trail—one amputee looking oddly
like a gas mask in this time of Covid-19,
one letter off of making me think
of nineteen ravens on a road—
the whole wooden mess a testament
to this town’s peace with entropy,
its loving pact with benign neglect, to let
woods be woods without human
meddling. Lightly pelted from above,
the dogs jogged on, occasionally
looking up at sky, wondering, mouths
open, catching graupel. Our coats,
speckled white, became wet.
We walked on, admiring the creek,
lapping its song here and there.
Thunder rolled. Hank reined in
the tangled thread of his roaming
at my side. Lost in thoughts
of Hank-turned-Christo, weaving
the forest white with yarn spooling off
his black back, I also lost track of Leo.
Liverspotted with his usual fear
of thunder, he disappeared. I called
and called his name, whistled
our whistle to silence and empty trail
for too long. Maybe he was quivering
in a lump under some ponderosa
I had missed while dreaming aspen,
woven yarn, graupel. Five minutes
from the car, my phone rang
inside my pocket. It was Caroline.
“Leo’s here. He showed up shivering.
Lucy is consoling him.” And she was,
when I arrived, with her customary
sniffs and licks, full red-body wag.
He could have landed anywhere,
at any other home. We laughed
at the wonder of dogs, the miracle
of a nose threading space with hope
toward a friendly door from the deep
heart of woods and mountain thunder.


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