Clanging and huffing the beasts new we were coming
twenty-something-year-old men “sploring”
even if it is down the same well-worn path
they’d seen in all four seasons
it was a trip from the urban confines of their world

Stopping to take pictures beside large up-rooted trees
dwarfed by the contrast in the diametric size
this is a new marker in the trail to remember
like so many others along the path to their lean-to

The woods are superior stands as their motto
a group of friends who have bested and have been bested
but always bow to the power of Mother Nature
having never fended off bears or wolf packs
like they tell their friends who have never packed in

Two foot deep snows, bitter cold and miserable rains
those were some obstacles faced and
the biggest vermin to contend with were foraging chipmunks
stealing GORP like mosquitoes steal blood

But for the most part it was knife throwing and fire building
deep woods quiet and deep woods symphony
pine trees shook like maracas
as spruces rubbed together with violin vibrato
crickets and owls and then there was the fire

That would come later, as they marched two by two
gear tied to external packs swinging noisily
the excitement of even a day off concrete paths
grew like springtime flowers as they carried along
until they reached their campsite home


spell bound


Too young to know to stay away
his interest peeked with this find
a dusty book of spells and prayers
the teenage boy began to read

upon gathering some ingredients
and practicing the unfamiliar words
the young man was elated
to see the incantation come to life

having now proved his mastery
in simple powers of the art
he flipped to pages of greater potency
and began his studies of the tome

his friends began to to wonder
and his kin barely saw him
the changeling to his former self
he became contorted with intoxicating wealth

in the quiet recesses of the forest
he practiced vocalizing foreign sounds
summoning beasts both natural and not
conjuring experiences far past his age

when the dark beings would speak to him
molding his immature and fickle brain
he thought they were empowering
instead of morphing their apprentice

then one day he was discovered
as the sorcerer in learning
a stranger stumbled upon this magic
becoming witness to this craft

accepting knowledge from the ravens
making dryads of old trees
he only knew to hide his secret
spouting evil enchantment
to dispatch another’s innocent soul

now the darkness had more than influence
it had enacted a forceful evil
enslaving the young apprentice
having exchanged leverage for his greed

then others came looking
for the first who had gone missing
and they too became one with legend
swallowed up by the darkened forest

the battle of the young man’s conscience
began to show in spite of his new power
choosing to recluse himself
into the recesses of the wood

there his mind became his enemy
and the power impotent to further harm the world
he disappeared into a cave they say
where he makes himself pay eternally for his sins

no longer do people wander alone in those woods
nor do they look for the boy or his victims
it’s a chapter closed for good
from the book of evil incantations

wake the beast


I hear the call
like a lupine invite over the hills
the winds carry the scent of pines
my blood burns a heavy crimson now on oaks
a tempered balance in contrast to white spruce
I hear the call
the shirt shed off of my back
earth squeezes between my toes
the chill of autumnal bliss kisses me with freedom
tonight there will be reason to howl
next to the fire of my ancestors
I will answer the call
breaking from mortar and cement
paths cut through the woods
like those created by smaller beasts
these arteries beckon to reunite us
returning to the reality of life
senses used in primal survival
the woods are superior

boys in the wood


Sliding off our packs, we collapse
reaching automatically for water bottles
five minute of rest well earned
but there is much to do before dusk
and the unforgiving sun mocks you still
where it made the hike unbearable
now he races towards the cover of a ridge
wood needs to be gathered and water stored
level ground found, evened and tents erected
it’s not all work with old friends around
random screams and splashing
fools fencing with future firewood
mother would worry, but we only laugh
a bottle of bourbon rewards hard labor
making merit badges from sips of gold
like a bail of hay through rounded horses teeth
the sun disappears over the hungry hills
night fall in the woods is a sacred time
when boys play games in a gnarled land
owned by those scratched under their beds
the fire ring’s light keeping a tidal perimeter
lapping like waves on a shore then retreating
broad smiles and bourbon fuel starts fire bounding
the fire licks our heels as we jump over
leaving only the size sorted lumber as its repast
pumped purified water boils to cook our dinner
reminiscing of the day’s trek in front of the hearth
projecting to the screens of shadowed canopies
the bitter sweet smell of pine wood smoke
mixed with the chill of the moons silver light
makes the enchantment of each tale amplified
exhausted from the ascents and downhill trails
laden like Himalayan Sherpas on rugged terrain
sleep comes swiftly sprinkled with starlight
and just as abruptly stirred from this slumber
by the unscreened sun’s morning serenade
calling like a bugle boy to a new day’s events

through the aisles of rhododendron
around switchback slopes winding
the Delaware playing peek-a-boo
between branches come vistas
and blueberries offer reasons to rest
the Appalachian Trail called us away
from the pavement and noise to her
Gaia sending aphrodisiac pheromones
to teenage city dwelling boys
longing to teach them of her ways
bedding us down on ferns and moss
soothing our thirsts in cool streams
from the Pennsylvania border to Jersey’s end
we walked, thinking ourselves explorers
modern day Hudsons and Vespuccis
treading paths well worn, but not to us
every step was an adventure
braving marauding bears on maul parties
living on rusty water and  meager rations
we pushed on following each blaze
with battle wounds and war stories
to regale those urbanites who scoffed
at why we would forgo roof and running water
for the dirty recesses of the woods

To my cousin John E. who led the way.

a new path


on my walk I found a path
leading alongside a river
cut through thicketed woods
a safe haven from the brambles

as I walked the river sang
the scenery danced to lullabys
ne’er a person betwixt my way
and pleasantly I went on

then it seems, by some odd fate
the landscape seemed to change
eroded shores fell to hungry rapids
there must have been a big storm

rocks and roots, now exposed
caused hazards to each step
when finally I made an about face
as the path fell into the river

no forks nor bridges to aid my walk
and with walls of heavy woods directing
I turned to find where it all had started
looking for yet another path to lead the way

Evil Nymph


sitting silent on a stump in the wood
contemplating on nothing good
a saw the little nymph compose her magic spell
sneaking closer I tripped and fell
becoming the recipient of her chants
understanding not one of her rants
next I woke in someplace new
bound and caged, nowhere I knew
the mischievous creature grinning wide
her next intentions she did not hide
boiling a cauldron of human size
her gaze transfixed on her dinner prize
the guest of honor would not eat
I would serve only for my meat

struggling against my limbs’ constraints
panic stricken, I almost faint
then from the left a wondrous sight
my father’s bow, arrow pulled tight
once he felled that cursed hine
in releasing me from the sinewy binds
he now turned away from the beast
but his arrow had only grazed it’s breast
it stood now angry craving blood
approached my father where he stood
turning quickly to face the monster
a knife drawn to battle his accoster

my fear gave way to buckled knees
landing softly on it’s nest of reeds
then when I did finally wake
in my bed, at father’s place
I ran to find out what had happened
to find he thought by brain had slackened
my entire story was surreal
childish dreams that seemed too real