Burned Over

FIRES, lit much less by man than by his leave,
His finished cigarette, his wet cigar,
Have left one summer too much to retrieve,
Slow-growing hardwoods being as they are.
Too much to ask one season (one or five)
To set the ranks of green against the black.
The charcoal dead are stronger than the live;
And when the winter comes, they’ll answer back.
You’ll see them single file across the hill,
Their better branches gone, but holding straight ;
So they can say man did n’t burn their will —
And burning early, now they’re lasting late.
A shallow growth strayed in to touch the base
Of trunk and root that were untouched before:
The berry bramble wove his spiny lace,
The forest went — and then the forest floor.
But resurrection is a long ways on,
As something slow to come in terms of trees.
The snow can tell us better what is gone,
And how our shade and shelter went with these.