A trail without foot- or hoofprints ends here
at a graveyard older than the forest.
Between the weeds are names
etched into hardest stone,
but letters have worn away
so that rare trespassers like me
will never know whose story
to tell, how old
they would be now,
how young are the fallen leaves
that season after season
become their burial gowns.
Forgotten headstones lean
in many directions,
perhaps toward places
their buried feet meant to go.
Along the old logging road
there are more fossils than trees:
petrified tire tracks, bright-white
styrofoam replacing shadows,
plastic Scotch bottles full of rainwater,
bones too broken to identify the species.
Not even an army of grass
can reclaim a wasteland,
nor can broken limbs find
their missing trunks.
Still there are ghosts that cannot leave
this abandoned road, this long scar
of incision. Still there is the faint scent
of diesel and sweat on sawdust,
and the soiled breeze
is too weak to carry
the human scent away.
Robert S. King lives in Athens, GA, where he serves on the board of FutureCycle Press. His poems have appeared in hundreds of magazines, including Atlanta Review, California Quarterly, Chariton Review, Hollins Critic, Kenyon Review, Main Street Rag, Midwest Quarterly, Negative Capability, Southern Poetry Review, and Spoon River Poetry Review. He has published eight poetry collections, most recently Diary of the Last Person on Earth (Sybaritic Press 2014), Developing a Photograph of God (Glass Lyre Press, 2014), and Messages from Multiverses (Duck Lake Books, 2020). His personal website is www.robertsking.info.