Is it just an old compulsion, my fear
as the landscape bleaches out,
every foot of ascent

less familiar, the silver birch
more stunted, their leaves
a paler yellow?

creeping, white,
fog over the forest floor,

each petal frail as thread.


Like soap in the river
diffusing, altering the light that filters down,

the drama humans make 
imposes itself everywhere -- can't help itself:

Jack-in-the-Pulpit and Indian Pipes,
Devil's Paintbrush, Avenging Angel,

New-World history slapped
like name-tags through the woods
our old morality play

even the simple arrowhead
named for a weapon
                                      can't, for us,

be simply a leaf.


Left behind on a slab
square-edged as a bench,

a bar of soap grows dappled
in the shade of afternoon:

workmen took their rest here
a hundred years ago
lounging on what made them
swear and strain, sweat
beading up in the woods.



the bridge they built still plays its part.

Pieced together without mortar,
rock presses against rock

a perfect arch
                         split from the air.

Martha Carlson-Bradley
MARTHA CARLSON-BRADLEY has published a chapbook, Nest Full of Cries (Adastra
Press), and poetry in New England Review, Alaska Quarterly Review, Marlboro Review, Carolina Quarterly, and other magazines. She works as director of publications at the New Hampshire Writers' Project and lives in New Hampshire at the edge of a state forest.
The Adirondack Review