This is the forest primeval,
Where traces of humans are few:
An occasional path by the lakeshore
Where hikers have taken the view.
A fireplace built out of boulders,
And firewood piled in a stack,
A courteous gesture by campers,
Expecting some day to come back.
Sometimes alongside the shoreline
Outlaw canoes can be found.
The portage to here is a long one,
Fully two miles from the town.
Rather than carry them homeward
They leave them all chained to the trees,
And come back with only their paddles
To launch them whenever they please.

This is the forest primeval,
Where ferns overspread in the glade,
Moss grows adjacent to water,
And wildflowers bloom in the shade.
I am reluctant to walk here
Because of the damage I do
Whenever I cannot avoid them
And trample on them with my shoe.
Alongside the shore of the water
The trail is not passable either,
Without climbing over the tree trunks
Felled by the teeth of the beaver.
The trees always fall toward the water;
The leaves provide food for the young;
The trunks block the access of hikers,
And fewer are likely to come.

This is the forest primeval,
In the dusk of the late afternoon;
And only the hoot of an owl,
The quavering cry of a loon,
The splash of a beaver in water,
Or the quack of a duck taking flight
Can be heard interrupting the stillness
Amid the approach of the night.
Until at the top of the hour
The bells of the church tower chime,
Muffled and faint in the distance,
Marking the passage of time.
Except for the march of the seasons
Over the course of the year,
And the cycle of daylight and darkness,
Time has no meaning out here.

This is the forest primeval,
Far from the lights of the town.
The moon will not rise until later,
Long after the sun has gone down.
The night is as black as the raven,
But for millions of stars in the sky,
And the brilliance of Jupiter rising,
And the flash of a few fireflies.
Small mammals rustle and forage;
Little else makes a noise in the night,
For even the largest of owls
Always are silent in flight.
Sometimes with talons extended,
One catches a terrified squirrel,
And the ruckus is but a reminder
That nature still rules the real world.

This is the forest primeval,
Now undisturbed by the axe;
And though it is no longer virgin,
The forest has long since grown back.
Once, long ago, in the lowlands,
The forest was brutally raped:
The tall trees were taken for lumber;
The seedlings were all that escaped.
But high in the boreal forest,
The trees were not plundered for gold;
The slopes were too steep and too rugged,
The hemlock too small to be sold.
Gone are the days of the loggers
With bow saw, mule skidder, and chain.
This is the forest primeval,
Evermore wild to remain.

Saranac Lake, New York, 1995

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