October Forest Walk

fresh claw marks on the beech trees
slashed into the smooth grey bark
already storied with scars

bears have been climbing here
foraging for nuts in the upper branches
leaving behind their signs

on impulse
I lean into a stout trunk

arch my hand
into the shape of claws

place fingers and thumb
into the five puncture pattern

look skyward
into the crown

I reach up
with my other hand
into the next set of marks

find myself
with arms extended
embracing a tree

wild calligraphy
ascends above me

I read rough-cut blessings
inscribed on a living banner

I read scores for songs
notations for dances
phrases for poems

I read the map to reverence

come and stand alongside
incline into the tree

are you drawn to place your hands in the markings
are you drawn to elation


Rae Crossman

Published by Caitlin Press in anthology Worth More Standing