—Cudahy Woods, 2020
by Jacob Riyeff
Sleet and stiff breeze cold about the ears,
the children tramp along, rejoice in chilled mud
streaming down the path and pooling in booted puddles.
Mayapple stands spy our single-file advance,
jack-in-the-pulpit hooding its glare in spare snatches
underfoot as the water gathers, saturating the woods.
The pulse of green and brown so dark it’s black to the eye,
trout-lilies radiate tepals, colonizing the forest floor
in all directions, surrounding us, enveloping our bodies,
our feet, our eyes with bashful, downturned blushing blooms.
They grow silent, perched and tranquil on basal leaves.
Their forebears were here long before ours, spreading, spawning,
waxing, filling the hillsides, worting the leaf litter.
And they endure, praising all the echoes of trees
streaming through trillium, cowslip peering down the creek,
calling with floral voices, the rattle of branches overhead
for years on years as bulbs wait in papery husks.
Jacob Riyeff is a translator, poet, and scholar of medieval literature. His work focuses on the western contemplative tradition and, increasingly, the natural world. He is a Benedictine oblate and lives on Milwaukee’s Lower East Side.