Winner Heart Award 2021

$500 & Publication

Heart 16, Winter 2021

Ginny Lowe Connors, W. Hartford, Connecticut

The Woods in November of a Difficult Year

We walk through an hour of late autumn light 
on a wooded path, my grown daughter and I, 
through leaf mold and shadow.

Heavy twists of vine, thick as ropes 
wrap trees to the point of strangulation.
Tumbled boulders edge the trail.
It’s a bleak season: illness sweeps 
through the world, cutting down millions 
and there’s family we haven’t seen in months.

We wonder at a gnarl of barbed wire 
embedded in the remnants of an old stump,				
piercing the heart of splintered wood.

November’s song is the dry rasp of leaves,
kinder than the voices we leave behind
that shout grievous lies from high offices.

My daughter’s voice is subdued.
I used to believe in something I called America,
she says, plucking a thorn from her sleeve.

Our talk, then, shifts closer to home 
and we reflect on betrayals 
that have split our own family.

We’re not immune from the falling away.
A woodpecker keeps knocking 
but we fail to see a single bird, just trees

many of them fallen, others 
barely upright, rough bark loosening, 
insect holes cratering trunks.

The land is November-sere,
everything waiting, it seems
for some final catastrophe or revelation.

Tangles of bittersweet clutter the woods
and November smells like loneliness
but we have this quiet hour together.

We celebrate a tiny tree, thin blessing 
sprouting from a rotting stump.