A Needle Bed

Under the longleaf pines
The curved, foot-long needles have
Woven a thatchwork quilt—threads,
Not patches, windfall millions
Looped and overlapped to make
The softest of needle beds.
The day’s turned hot, the air
Coiling around the always
Chill scent of pine. As if lit
From below, a radiance
Warmer yet more clement than
The sun’s, the forest-carpet
Glows. It’s a kind of pelt:
Thick as a bear’s, tawny like
A bobcat’s, more wonderful
Than both—a maize labyrinth,
Spiraling down through tiny
Chinks to a caked, vegetal
Ferment where the needles
Crumble and blacken. And still
The mazing continues . . . whorls
Within whorls, the downscaling
Yet-perfect intricacies
Of lichens, seeds and crystals.