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Wittenborg Woods by John Tessitore

A step past the marker

and I lose the path,

sink in a mud slough,

fern beds, skunk cabbage,

the marish and mire

I’m not meant to walk through.

My eye does not betray

me as it wanders,

tracking the flicker

scaling a smooth trunk,

scooping the blood-red

fungus from a stump.

I’m a master of many

astonishments who

knows how to follow

the wonder and the way

at once, who is not

easily led astray.

And I seek on my walk

a respite from sturm

and speed, slow progress,

a spider in the leaves,

a rangy aster

almost gone to seed.

Yet I hear your voice

in this quiet wood,

insistent sentences

of pure sound raining

down through bare branches,

syllables without sense

closing the distance

between us like relic

radiation, or

the sibilance of sin,

the siren’s song after

the siren has gone.

Unmanned, I follow

what I hear in my ear,

and I lose the path

for a thick blackness

of muck, my compass

spinning on its axis.


John Tessitore has been a journalist and biographer. He has taught American history and literature, and directed several national policy studies. His poems appear in the American Journal of Poetry, Canary, The Wallace Stevens Journal, Wild Roof, Magpie Lit, the Sunday Mornings at the River anthology and forthcoming in The Closed Eye Open and Boats Against the Current.

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