A Man in the Woods

A man walks in the woods one day
sketching a life unfinished,
filling in details with coal black coal

He works from a photo–it’s always a photo
clipped from a newspaper, a magazine, printed or copied

He walks, searching
the search is the hardest,
trees have grown, branches broken,
weeds overgrown, trunks rotted
violence buried, justice forgotten
landmarks help and so do memories,
etched in bark, etched in minds,
scarred and scabbed, recounted reluctantly

He finds the spot somehow,
the tree and the truth,
and holds the photo up and examines the angle
where the branch would’ve been

He ignores the living and sketches the dead
the details in the photo don’t matter
he removes the noose from around his neck
the absence of life does matter
a flick and he begins to fill that in

Remove the rope and he’s not hanging,
he’s jumping, leaping, soaring
a graduation photo, his family’s first
a wedding photo, a broom beneath his feet
destiny inverted turns his grimace to a smile
his tears are still tears, not pain but joy
for a birth, a boy, a girl, a child, a life
a continuation, a sequel, a love letter to
existence and the right to exist in the face
of a sea of faces hungry for his fate

no that’s the photo

In the sketch the faces are familiar, family, friends
In the sketch, finished, he is a father
In the sketch, finished, he is fulfilled
In the sketch, finished, he is

he is a person, a whole, a lawyer, a doctor,
a nurse, a chemist, a writer

he is a failure, a success, a liar,
a cheat, a lover, a friend,
a collection of opportunities and paths
diverging and merging in time,
false starts and dead ends and square ones and new beginnings

he is and he is and he is and he is and he is but

in the photo he was

A man walks in the woods one day,
sketching a life incomplete