$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.