Timothy Thomas McNeely
A yellow tongue unspools from the blue and steel canister
of Spencer logger’s tape he still holds high, 60 feet behind me now.
The spring’s rasp speaks sense into the world, barely discernable
above my own ruckus. Most days it hangs and rattles from his belt loop.
Today, I pull at the dummy end while tramping through the forest
out in front of him, vaguely trying to follow instructions, attempting
not to fall, be tangled in the underbrush, profuse, aggressive,
screen of hidden holes and fallen logs that leap at my shins when
I approach, ostensibly aiming for that third Doug fir a few yards on.
We’ll do this all day: walk a compass line down a property’s edge
trying to discern what’s within this stand of trees and what’s without;
moving from one staked corner down the unfenced, suspected edge
till we find the other stake out by the access road, half-buried;
establishing our border with orange and yellow flagging tape,
each ribbon a banner describing our temporary territory.
My dad gets a bead on a distant tree and sends me off, tape in hand,
the spiked end meant for shoving into bark, gripped tightly
in my glove, a makeshift handle. Much later, we’ll move equipment
onto the property and cull the trees this side of the line,
and some will go to paper mills, and some will see Japan.
But watch me now, if you don’t mind, and I’ll perform a trick
as I disappear behind this overzealous rhododendron.
The sound of me fades, salal and Oregon grape swallowing me
up to the waist, while ivy vines ascend, till I am bound to the ground
and lost, spore ground for sword ferns, and finally become
the earth itself, fortuitous fall for a timely cone to seed on and take root
in me, from which will one day spring a cedar tall as heaven.
Timothy Thomas McNeely was raised in the Pacific Northwest and studied poetry at the University of St Andrews and the Hugo House in Seattle. Now a husband and father of four, he works in federal education program management and continues to write to capture the landscape.