Kathleen Cain

Find the center of things—
            this may be the house
                        or the heart
                                    or a stone found on an Irish beach
                                                while staring across the sound
                                                            to the Great Blasket Island

Consider topography
            especially if
                        you have to climb
                                    to find what you are looking for—
                                                the exact point of curl in your child’s hair
                                                            the locket lost on a high trail

But topography
            is never all—
                        what’s loved
                                    may be right there at eye level—
                                                a view through a window
                                                            or the first time you gave your son
                                                                        permission to use a knife
                                                                                    to cut an apple

Follow roads you know
            and roads you don’t
                        into the interior
                                    be prepared
                                                to spend nights
                                                            without shelter
                                                                        to learn which trees nearby
                                                                                    love water

Consider how
            when you find what you are
                        looking for
                                    how you might retrieve it
                                                or whether you will only
                                                            consider it
                                                                        and leave it there

Remember how far
            you can travel
                        in a day

                                    how to resist
                                                the urge to turn back


She sends green light toward the trail
From lichen on her worn and reddened curves.
She’s too old for vanity or pride.
Exposed, her igneous flow has
petrified and left her standing
in this field since the last Ice Age.

She is shameless, open as
a bowl. Open as a woman
can be. At her center, a space
that snow and rain will fill, and stir
the pine seeds blown in each autumn;
giving life to fairy shrimp and insects
too small for most of us to know by name.

She leans back beneath the ponderosa
pine. Things have broken off inside her:
a sandstone arch, a cover, a seam, where
once, at the bottom of the bowl, water held,
like cupped hands, in the spring rains.

And who would care if a boulder
fills with water or not? And empties
again? The crows, the bush-birds,
the wide-eyed mule deer, and a woman
passing by, called to her side by green light
glimpsed from the trail at mid-day.


First the cycads
(sego palm
and gingko) then
conifers—the pines
and their kindred
among whom
only the tamarack
prophet begins to
sheds leaves.

Needles in their
fascicle packets
begin unfolding
exactly so many
each year. You can
still count them
on any tree; arrested
development or
perfection of form
and function?

Next, the catkin
bearers: willow, birch,
poplar (cottonwood
goes here), sometimes
bearing life alone.
Sometimes one tree
male, the other
female, with wind
as matchmaker (why
this singularity is
“primitive” among
trees and a sign of
among humans
no one explains).

At last, the fruiting
sort—maple, oak,
hickory, linden,
the extended family
of the rose: an apple,
a peach, a plum,

a cherry—O generous
etcetera! Congratulations!
We have now arrived
at one hundred
million years ago.
Let us pray.