At the Edge of the Forest

by on Sep 18, 2017

after Fall Landscape by Julian Onderdonk, oil on board, 9in. x 12in.

In the first days of October,
the clearing always looks the same—

A sea of frenzied tawny tangled grass
keeping the bones of the birches
with their ochre crowns at bay,
and the colossal tree my grandfather
showed me as a boy,
set apart from the others, holy,
seeming to know more about
storms and droughts and seasons
than the rest of the woods,
its branches twisting and sprawling
(like all of our histories, he said)
and clothed in plumes of
chestnut and fire and wine

But the breath of autumn is passing
as he did; softly, swiftly,
with only the sound of a branch
breaking, a hip cracking,
taking with it the knowledge
that the tree is just another scaffolding;
a sweat-beaded promise, a protest
against decay, a hope born of
pattern and chance and time spent
straining toward the sun; a desire
blossoming from a hundred years of
memory and anticipation as it bears
the weight of a robin’s egg blue sky
caught between summer and
winter, morning and night,

somehow utterly unlike all
the other skies that came before it.


Ben Groner III (Nashville, TN), recipient of Texas A&M University’s 2014 Gordone Award for undergraduate poetry, has work published in Appalachian Heritage, Third Wednesday, New Mexico Review, Fourth & Sycamore, Texas Poetry Calendar, and elsewhere. You can see more of his work at Ben Groner III – Creative Writing

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