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The Clearing

Today’s poem is “The Clearing” by Richard Foerster. His eighth book of poems, Boy on a Doorstep: New and Selected Poems, will be published by Tiger Bark Press in the spring of 2019. Richard has worked as a lexicographer, educational writer, typesetter, teacher, and editor of the literary magazines Chelsea and Chautauqua Literary Journal. Since 1986, he has lived on the coast in southern Maine.

He writes, “I was at Hawthornden Castle in Scotland in September 1993 when I wrote this poem. In late afternoon, after a day at my desk, I’d walk the forested grounds to get some exercise. A large flock of rooks would invariably be roosting high among the ancient oaks. As if I’d awakened them, they'd start their raucous cawing and whirl above the treetops. The display was beautiful but somehow threatening. As the din echoed through the valley, I’d try to discern a pattern in what seemed chaotic. One day I sensed the sound coalescing and imagined the crows in unison were hymning one of the fearsome names of God.”

The Clearing
By Richard Foerster

Always in that clearing
the oaks are black with crows
and I can’t be certain
my presence starts it
but something catches like
a fuse, and the branches seethe
until the air grows raucous
with calling crows. First one,
then another, now all
stretch into brief grace
then oar up into a spiral-
ing choir, into such teasing
synchroneity, just approaching
then skirting a pattern.
Far below and minuscule
under that disarming blue
circle of light, I watch them,
charred bits in a whirl-
wind of logic, beyond grasp
of cause or destiny, beyond
delight or grief. Their flight,
I tell myself, has nothing
to do with me, and that widening
echo, even when it falls
together a moment, orchestral,
has nothing to do with me,
though it sounds at times fearsome
and something like a name.

“The  Clearing”  copyright  ©1998  by  Richard  Foerster.  Reprinted  from  Trillium  (BOA  Editions  1998)  by  permission  of  Richard  Foerster.