“Grey” by John Barton

Harris said: Cast
your Indian stuff aside,
find totems of your own.

And I did,
for he spoke
what I had left
unspoken in my heart.
When the forest was dry enough
I edged my
way down between the boles,
found solace
in the water-soft quiet.

And here I am again,
a latecomer this spring
to Heaven’s gate,
the forest a tinderbox
locked against me.
A heavy mail of darkness
chains the cedars.
They cannot move.
Even their branches
won’t ease back,
let me pass.
I could stand before them
a thousand years,
never know I’m here.

Sit on your camp-stool,
old fool, and think.
Get out your journal,
think a way in
between the trees.
These cedars are older
than Adam.
God had no voice and spoke only
in forms.
‘Forest;’, ‘tree’,
cones overlapping and wrapped
in darkness, impenetrable
as one’s heart.
Now, drawn to the forest edge,
I am one of His thoughts—

It’s almost dawn.
The first light rolls
off the cedars.
They shimmer, wet
windows, turn black-
That little pine
in the foreground,
the first and last of this race,
could be the centre.
It shines from within:
bronze light cracks through
its crust of darkness,
a grey beacon.
It draws me
into its cave.
I shall
burn there, untouched, unborn,
outside memory.