Flora of the Boreal Forest

The child insisted on being carried
to touch the pine, the oak, oak, pine,
and I grew numb under that adamant voice.
My arm throbbed as she tried to decide:
Cone? Acorn? Needle? Leaf?

It’s only thanks to the half light
that we can go home, she prancing
on my shoulder, trying to braid
my wisp of hair, singing absently.

Thrush or vireo, loud and invisible,
slurring two manic notes:
wherever it calls from is the center.

Lake behind the scrim of alder
like a plenitude you long for
all of your life, most of all at the end.

Lit window like a force
you can’t imagine knowing you
but it consumes you without reflection.

World like a hole to fall into
forever, or else a curtain
you might stick your hand through.

Soon even she will tire of her song,
how it meets itself coming and going,
the vast spaces between notes,
the snarky refrain, Damariscotta,
the first faint stars, and she’ll put
her sticky hand over my eyes: pine.

– D. Nurkse


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