Produced by Dennis Camire

This week’s poem is by former Portland Poet Laureate Bruce Spang. His most recent book is “Boy at the Screen Door.”


By Bruce Spang


I walked up a mountain trail in April.

Along the way, strewn here and there,

Broken branches, some stabbing the cool wet earth,

Some cracked, their limbs sundered, like a man

Who’d fallen from a great height,

His legs and arms crushed under him,

And some whole trees, their roots deracinated,

Block the way. The high winds on these slopes

And the weighty snow, slam them

Back to earth. I pick up a few branches,

Crack them on my knee and toss

Them aside. Under them tiny buds

Of violets, strewn in a patchwork

Pattern along the path, seem out of place

This deep in the woods. There’s also

A cluster of Solomon seal, thin white

And green sleeves opening alongside

Phlox, pink and blue, that seem suspect.


Maybe it’s the long walk here among

The brokenness that brings my brother to mind.

Months now, nearly six, since he died,

Telling me, “I couldn’t have done it without you,”

Letting me know I found the right words to say

To help him accept his falling away, his body slack.


Maybe it was seeing how the noble heights

Of these pines and oak are brought low,

And, as if unable to contain their solitary loss,

Take with them whole swatches of understory,

Slashing and stripping them of limbs.

Maybe it’s how each spring more of the top

Growth gives way in the canopy to let more light

Through for the understory, is how I knew

To tell him, when life’s at an end, it’s best

To let it go and attend to what’s coming,

No matter its length, how finally what’s left

Is to clear the path and pass on.


Dennis Camire can be reached at [email protected]