October Camping

For many years our family would camp in October on the Columbus Day long weekend. It was great to get out of the city cement into forests. Many times we rented a cabin at Bass River State Forest, in the Pine Barrens of New Jersey. I wrote this poem many years ago about our last trip, published in the Naugatuck River Review.

New Jersey Pine Barrens, 1990

Mist sprites rise like scrim
from the ‘skeeter-green lake.
An early fall freeze stirs
around our cabin, the last camp-out
of my children’s childhood.

I heard that Redcoats deserted here— 
hardly boys—who learned to char wood
for smelters that pilled cannon shot.

An odd Scots burr can still
be heard in the bush. Tonight I strain
to hear the rustle of children growing;
they too are ready to decamp.

Newly burned when we first came here,
ankle-high saplings speckled the sand.
But pine and maple grew 
like you two. Now a forest covers 
the blight. 

Here I come upon you,  moonblue
by the creek, my girl curled 
inward over shy breasts, furred 
eyes scurrying under my light.

If I could catch that animal, girl,
what I could tell it—how love can withstand
storms, even in sand, feeding on its own
mulch and old wet pooling deep down. 

It builds on mossy delusions
until a spark snaps after years of drought.
Then all that canopy blazes, 
transpires into black lumps, 

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