Robert Banks Foster



Forestry Notes

For Arundhati Roy
The new earth is coming.
On a quiet day I can hear her breath.
Jack Layton
Always have a dream that’s
longer than a lifetime.
With thanks to Michelle Mungall for inspiring the opening of Part II


Part I

Forest still green
end of September the whole way to the coast
but back of the hills in my mind
Roundup readies the forest for harvest.
Memory knows loggers broken
begged in the streets—
too many accidents to call them workers
no WCB because
Run it just like an insurance company
Take no risky business
just like fishers just like rain
Reduce uniqueness to utility.
The dark wood becomes the poisoned wood.
We might as well get something for it.
Woods getting dark around me was a childhood dream.

One friend saw
checker boards sprayed
in public parks
2 x 2 foot squares of herbicide
blow at swing and slide children
Who cares about the dead
when dead money grows.
Zombie multiplication.

You know the facts, I know the facts:
as the puddle fills with poison
at first the tiny bit around the edge
hardly shows for the longest time
when at last you notice
well it’s only creeping inward
then well, it’s crept more
you turn around twice and it’s half full
& you blink or stammer
all dead, all gone.
But does it change mind
this sustainable last death?

The table the chair
the floor the wall
the lamp the frame
the library the books
the book cases the pictures
and if not made of wood
made of oil
the former life of the earth

Get fat at the table and complain
there isn’t any more.
But Mom said, “You’re too fat, you’re too fat,
have some desert or dessert.” I did.

We hear when buildings
fall, not trees.
Our members need open
access to timber;
that’s what we call sustainable.
The dark wood becomes the poisoned wood.
Reduce uniqueness to utility.
That’s what we call sustainable.
Look here on my cell phone.
That’s what they left: 5 foot stumps
where we could walk among life.
Worse than the meteor at Tunguska.
The coast is toast.
Mother nature strikes back.
Hell hath no fury like a forest scorned.

A door opens on stumps
I’ll build you a home in a meadow
and if there isn’t a meadow
I’ll build you a home out of
what will be the meadow
and if ever I should leave you
before it’s done
your door will open on stumps.

At the Surreal Show
at The Art Gallery of Vancouver
All the private school girls, tunics rolled up . . .
(because I forgot to bring a towel
& in my night reading
am smelling like the stench in Dante’s Hell
and see the show first
by automatic walking)
the most surreal
and always and
how are these pictures
gross like entrails
but not bloodied
the bike wheels I repaired on
the long journey into pressing
time spaces
The birch leaf that is a tree

Part II

What can I do?
Study and listen.
Hear the wind in the leaves.
Wait until you and others must speak.
Hear the wind in the leaves.
Become visible so all see you.
Become vocal so all hear you.
Share, study, and listen.
Hear the wind in the leaves.
Feed others, share, study, and listen.
Hear the wind in the leaves.

At a mountain lake an hour from my door
We bounce on an ill kept road;
old growth forest beside us.
Cool high air breaks a hot day.
Less than half an hour around
the lake seemed larger than
our minds or world allow.
Teeth of some sort, rough, untried, high up mountains
rugged tree ring between
hanging lichens covered dying trees.
When the rhetoric dried away
I knew how much I wanted to be there.

The swirl of grass in a field
the swirl of grass in a field in a ditch
many grasses all swirl, not of one mind
trampled, broken, knocked against with each other
each shape not named with multiple voices
a forest like that, our delight in the multiple voices
not one, but making . . .

This is the era of
superficial formations
that one leaf differs from another
and a chorus sings of multiple voices
the voice of waterfall or forest
grass that folds in the compost
junk stored in the hut
purple leaves each about to fall
their own way
weathered roofs and fading paint
nowhere the same as another
and the mountains, not only their
outline not the same but their sides
logged or not in regular and irregular
patch but clouds casting transforming shadows
the glimpse of change in and out of the mind
grays, greens, browns
never the same
wind, motions of branches, never the same
the noise of expectations
the fractal dimension

Half though the journey of our life
I lost my way in a dark wood.
At the rally someone said, “We are the forest.”
The leaves of the trees are for
healing of the nations.


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