PARMER SNIDER-THE WOODS — Chess Player, Poet, Night Owl


barn owl asleep on a high beam
the buttercups and the crickets
undiscovered springs in the earth
coyote, the mischief-maker
life hidden in an old stone wall
now wonder and wander away
henceforth and so forever more
for thus i carve you a mystery
drifting with the sadness of life
sorrows of the long unnumbered
a puzzle of these planet things

the simple longing and dying
of sweet life-forms so innocent
of creatures that you and i love
a dozen wildcats that leave us
a thousand insects that taunt us
whispering breezes of summer
and groundhog holes by the garden
the deep greenness of the forest
oh, such primeval forms of joy

the rocky creek tumbling so steep
next to the overgrown orchard
and moss by the water so sweet
a praying mantis in the grass
the geese circling over the pond
the green frogs and the long black snakes
yellow jackets and honey bees
may apples along the old lane
near the civilization tree
a possum clings to a sapling
its eyes seem so strange in the night
and right by our pond at the dam
a hidden crevasse in the roots
of a leaning ancient birch tree
where we used to hide our treasures
of bluebells and four-leaf clovers
a lifetime of high adventures
playing in that bright little creek
contentment in the pure coldness
salamanders between our toes
the orioles and bluebirds
wild turkeys by the old harp tree
and the indian arrowhead
that we found in a cow pasture
the sagging wooden barnyard fence
the outhouse and low chicken coop
and high above the waterfalls
the ruins of a limestone kiln

wide fence rows and old cattle paths
the cattails near springs by the swamp
where two spotted fawns thrilled us all
a block of salt always under
the bent-over mulberry tree
for white-tailed deer by the dozens
half-tamed skunk near hole at the shed
the old corncrib and the hayloft
cherry trees in youthful white dress
hummingbirds over the violets
dancing with an airy frenzy
and the graveyard by the old church
carefully hiding our lost friends

a kitten peeks around the porch
where bats hide under the rafters
as wooden shingles tumble down
and straight across the rough high lawn
where the monarch butterflies float
a platform in the apple tree
where we slept through a starlit night
and beyond the thousands of trees
way off so far in the distance
the faintest long-haunted murmur
of a sleepy county village
that life-forms would be brave and true
that love of the woods should prevail
these are the yearnings of the earth

the wildest joys of a midnight
solitary walk to the cave
as a fierce hunting bobcat screams
in the gloom and upsetting fog
what remote ancestor of ours
once howled in that dark narrow hole
what near-human form raged at death
where the huge boulders of the cliff
carve strange depressions in the soil
we respect our mystical hills
for we are lovers of the woods
we’ll never betray the green earth

the soft winds of april beckon
and animals are on the prowl
a weasel chases a rabbit
down lilac lane into the swamp
while over toward hexenkopf rock
a most lonely passing black bear
is sleeping on a side-long hill
the birthday trail along the ridge
and down below in the hollow
a meadow-tuft where two brooks meet
with a rock jumble guarding all
and the snake trail that we once made
whenever we’d climb the old hill
then a hundred hilltops we’d see
thickets of wineberry bushes
the apple trees, pear, peach, and quince
may leaves, one thousand shades of green
the skunk cabbage and trout lilies
wild strawberry picking in spring
oh the love of these smiling hills
soft music of the woods and streams
the serene mood of our landscape
and the wildness lingering on
the chipmunks would play at our feet
as we’d swing on sturdy grapevines
turtles laid eggs on the south slope
gray squirrels dined in the cornfields
the tree frogs would chirp in april
and field mice that lived on our porch
the maple trees, willows, and beech
old sycamores and the poplars
for that endless green sea of trees
once stretched to the ends of the earth
blossoms and branches of whitman
the ghoul-haunted woodlands of poe
deep deep woods of raggedy ann

at twilight in the upper field
on a flat rock i once waited
for whatever would come to pass
a red-tailed hawk signaled from high
a movement close by in the earth
and a fox walked straight up to me
as our eyes met in the dim light
a mist floated up from the woods
and thoughts of the fox echoed ’round
nearby on branches crows gathered
oak trees leaned over to listen
could the green live on in the end
would the forest come back again
in my heart i felt that it could
then dream now with few vexations
for the light is fading away

that room in the unpainted barn
bantam chickens perched in a row
by day a raccoon slept near there
a dusty white horse lives below
that old collie dog’s still barking
right under the first walnut tree
how we love the charms of these woods
we’ll never forget our sweet hills
at night-time i stroll down the lane
and wonder then how i’m so poor
my one shirt is torn at the sleeves
really have nothing to read now
but moonlight on tulip tree leaves
the farmers have all gone away
and the dogwoods fill in the fields
with cedars as their companions.

frank parmer snider

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