Birch Bark

My uncle brought me the skin of trees
as an empty manuscript—
(shed, husked scales
gathered from woods,
fallen footnotes of birch bark)
with dark grace notes
like type on white paper.
He placed them in a canvas bag,
gave them to the child I was, said,
write your poems on these.
Tonight, in this dusk-spilled forest
all is green—
dusty ground, foal-warm—
air, pond-cool.
I remember first poems.
They, like scrawled henna on wrists of wood—
silent pulse waiting beneath,
pictographs of what I hoped to reveal.

I still seek to translate
the grains of wood he gathered,
find the language—
splintered hieroglyphs he left—
meaning encoded there.
Each word he never spoke
was laid to rest with him
and if even one of them
falls from my fingers
as night inks the woods
in stillness—
one tree-ring is added to this book.

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