What the Forest Remembers
(Bornean Ironwood, Central Kalimantan)
Do you remember what the forest remembers?
Do you remember the hanging trees,
cool as night lanterns?
Do you remember the lights flashing
on the cicada’s wing?
The red streaking water, soothing as hot thunder?
Who has the right to ask
these questions of the forest?
I walked on an earth blanketed in soot
three hands thick. White butterflies of ash
materialized in the hot air around me
and evaporated, migrating to a heaven
of cypress and laurel and cecropia.
I say your names as if I know you.
I would like to know you.
The ironwood tree grows so slowly –
a hair’s breadth with every moonset,
a finger’s width, maybe, with every revolution
of the sun.
If you are an ironwood tree
burned in this fire
you will not recover
in my lifetime
but you will recover.
Your seeds are the size of hand-axes
in the charred earth.
Do you remember the praying mantis
scratching at your tender green parts?
I slept last night cradled by fire
blanketed in monoxide haze
in a gray cabin of old iron wood
a hard, ugly timber that stands its ground.
Its seeds are the size of cairn-stones
that mark whole ages of time.
Do you remember the flames
that erupted all night --
man’s red flower, as they say?
I thought they’d engulf us by dawn –
thought I’d wake up chased by the flames.
Does the forest remember the fire
that nourished it centuries back?
Something it remembers, yes,
Clearly. Something it remembers.