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Roethke of the Raleigh

While spending a raucous weekend at the Raleigh Hotel in the Catskills, I broke away for a solitary walk in the woods. This is a memory of those moments.

Theodore Roethke is a poet with a special affinity for nature, and whose work I admire.

Here just beyond the edge
of the civilized perimeter,
a moment of peace gives to me,
beside the raucous Catskill levity
and the Hotel Raleigh's social trigonometry.

The spot I choose, a bowl of beech leaves,
is soft and feathered as a virgin's bed.

This is my new home, a gift,
a dish of cool tranquility for the head....
It's just beyond the tennis din,
the shout of "my ad", bellhops and
magician's nightclub tricks,

where a bowl of newborn forest
serves up daily at six.

I take my spot, recede in the sun-calmed quiet,
and hear a wren and a distant brook
play their calming riot.

This sweetest sun, father of all delights,
cools the brow and unfevers a soul,
even bakes life into this secluded bowl.

May's ferns spike the edges of this tiny place,
with chartreuse sprigs of our freshest year....

Each one is slender,
greening in the supple bright.
And now they're keening,
racing toward their unfurling,
this latest chance to make things right.

My desk in this tree-lined space
is a shapely rock, with a map of history
embedded in its lichen and moss topped face.

To my left -- a miniature Gibraltar,
with a glacier-flattened peak
on my right, the ferned palms
of a Monticello Martinique.

A man walks by. He calls sharply to his dog,
and then, much more mildly to me:

"What are you doing?" he asks with a grin.
(Imagine something so preposterous
as a man who's lookin in!)

"Enjoying a quiet moment!" I call back,
forgiving any wrong.

He smiles and says, "Until I came along."

"No," I shorten his remorse, as if on cue:
"There's room in the forest for two."

His pooch examines me from afar,
wondering if I'm worth the sniffing.
His doggy mind signals "nyet,"
and they go on walking towards the calm,
now farther yet.

I remain here to hunt and peck,
again alone with my thoughts,
and the soothing of sunlight on my neck.


—— Albert Fried-Cassorla, May 5, 1991

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