Departments

The Pine Barrens

Forests have gods of their own they suckled and shelter, the old gods
Left there by peoples vanished or dead in their hollows and deer paths.
Always defeated, they whisper and slink through the shivering shadows.
But we have a god, a devil, a shrieking and wandering devil.
You hear him hunting and howling: he hunts in the night and the day-time.
You see the marks of his hooves in the snow on your lawns and your rooftops.
You know the devilish son, thirteenth son of Mother Leeds, cursed son.
Twelve mortal children had grown in her womb by turns and had suckled.
Loose as it hung from her, skin could not hold in her bitterness. Maddened,
Weeping, she prayed this one be a devil. Darkness had filled her
Darkness to cover the sun like a storm cloud, night without morning.
Sticky and crying he lay in his crib while she died in her bedsheets.
Lying alone in his crib how he grew, like the wave in the ocean
Last child of Mother Leeds, thirteenth child, cursed child, fanged child, winged child
Leaving the towns behind, fearing his father’s kind, flying he found us.
Devils are hungry for blood but we gave him pine sap to suckle
We fed him pine sap and bear flesh. He needed no shelter from hunters
Men had forgotten their towns in the dark woods next to the red bogs.
Men left their churches and sweet homes shut up, silent and empty.
Free of their axes we rose up, covered the roads and the clearings
Rotted and broke down fences, dragged down markers and signposts
Scattered young acorns tight in the cracks of the walls and the rooftops
Driving their roots in as wedges to throw down the walls and the roof beams
Unhinged doorways, battered windows, wind-swaying branches
Heaved up foundations. Jumbled and heaped up stables and workshops
Houses, schoolrooms, churches. Mice made nests in the bedsheets.
Sweeter is nothing for forests than violently taking their own back
Nothing like claiming the ruins. We watch all your cities and highways
All of your wire-strung poles and your blind towns white in the night-time
Ready and hungry we plan their ruins. We wait for your weakness
Sending our acorns, testing defenses. Soon when you falter
Our god will walk out among you clearing the way for us,
Violently clearing the way for the oaks and the pines that adore him.
Empty, your sky-scraping towers will rust through, buckle and falter
Vines will soon pull down your wires and smother the voice of your broadcasts
Trees will soon grow in your roads, in your lawns, your cellars and playgrounds
Spiders will seal up your houses and mice will make nests in your bedsheets.