To Skin Bare
The lichen sticks to bark grooves like skin, but dead,
dried, and peeling. Like damaged skin. Diseased skin.
It's skin of another, and there's a strangeness
in the act of stripping it. Almost shy. Almost
aware of some kind of compelled intrusion. Wayward
intimacy. Compulsion to intrude right there
on a log of balsam. You peel. You strip. You take off
the skin of this other thing. Imagine it's like peeling scabs,
not yours, a friend's, a stranger's. Or taking off clothes,
not yours, a stranger's. You can think these things in the woods.
In the woods, if you have a thought and then another
and another thought, but no one is there to watch you
weather your notions as you strip lichen off bark, as you peel
bark from tree, as you reveal the bare trunk and the ooze of sap,
does anyone sense your thought-quake? If anything
is moved—if anything shudders, if anything shakes—
it is only your own unheard heart, its wavering
wick, the dormant layers it beats beneath.