Woodland Music

Hiking along the limpid river
we listened to the larks and crows,
to the leaves of birch and willow quiver,
and a thousand and one piccolos
of hot and bothered vernal peepers
merged with the warbling of brown creepers.
A distant but persistent din
began to brashly muscle in,
breaking the woodland’s jocund chorus—
a mystifying hive-like hum.
We wondered where it issued from.
We thought the mountain would restore us,
reinvigorate our ears,
gift us aural souvenirs,

tokens for a tuneless city,
memories of the sound of peace.
The youngest one among us, witty
and pert, my ever clever niece
said, “What is that unearthly droning? —
as though some animal were moaning
about how bored the trees all are.
Their sap would have more zip by far
if a gang of noxious, nauseating
ATVs zoomed down this trail.”
And, sure enough, right on our tail
they roared like a million chainsaws, mating
forest tune with engine noise,
a dissonance no soul enjoys—

at least not ours. We promptly scuttled
off the path as they chewed it up,
the atoms of our brains as muddled
as marbles shaken in a cup.
Inhaling fumes as they receded,
we stood there feeling quite ill-treated
but, hearing arias again
from blue jay, cardinal, and wren,
we trod anew among the cedar,
hemlock, oak, and sycamore.
Thunder! It began to pour.
Ever lighter, ever fleeter
through the sky’s champagne we raced
like rabbits livened by its taste.

We made it to the old Toyota,
clothing wetter than a pond
but didn’t mind it one iota,
for Earth had waved her magic wand
and doubtless had those hellions sopping—
the planet’s foremost trick for stopping
such wild beasts that beat the wilds
with noises audible for miles.
Yet here they came again — to gall us?
Their helmets kept them nice and dry
(at least their hair). My niece, not shy,
cried out, “We came for calm and solace,
not for this ruckus you call ‘fun’!”
while tires — cruel, titanic — spun

and hurtled off and left us splattered.
We drove away, smelling of muck.
I thought of all those trails, so battered,
marveled at my niece’s pluck,
and wondered what the eagles, thrushes,
and others feel when a motor rushes
past a nest. Might birds desert
their eggs? Watch fledglings getting hurt?
Each thought was like the urgent squeaking
of a young, abandoned owl,
keener still with each new vowel,
till all the birds of Earth were shrieking.
And, windows shut, all nature mute,
we sped along our drizzly route.



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