The Woods: A Poem on the Nature of Loss

 The Woods
I go to escape the news, the world, myself.
Sensitive? Perhaps.
Foot in front of foot, moving past
lake, flowers, trees, and wobbly geese.

I come upon a still-life scene and pause.
Talons press down on brown fluff.
One eye looking away. One eye looking at me.
I convince myself to stay and watch.

It is only the natural cycle of life, after all.
Life-death-life.
Nature takes one life and gives life to another.
Balance.

Flesh rips, tendons tear, fat drips from piercing beak.
Pink bits, red bits. White.
Peck by peck, bone by bone
life is consumed, a spark extinguished.

One eye watches me, the uneasy voyeur,
one eye glazes over with the hazy veil of death.
Life-death-life.
Merely a natural cycle.

I rise in silence fazed, yet not so altered.
Walking home step by step,
pondering the process,
trying to reconcile the tension of the opposites.

Hours later the unwelcome call pierces the evening
as the sun lowers its brilliance.
A brother cries out in grief.
Nature takes one life.

Life-death-life: a natural cycle.
This thought means nothing in this dark moment.
A family altered forever.
I am no longer the curious watcher.

Story behind the poem and pictures continues below video:

I happened upon this scene in the woods November 27th of last year. I am sensitive when it comes to animals dying and being hurt, so it was unusual that I was able to watch as the grisly scene unfolded before me. As I kind of explain in the poem, I felt called to sit, watch, and try to accept that this was natural. I have to take the good with the bad. Accept death as a part of life. So sit, I did. Afterwards, I felt strangely calm as I convinced myself I had witnessed nature just being nature. And that was that. I wasn’t hardened, I felt maybe my regular spiritual study of the last several years (ALL my years, actually) helped me to achieve this calm attitude of acceptance.
Merely a natural cycle: life, death, life.
Little did I know that in a few hours the phone would ring, my husband would answer, and a police officer would inform him that his 49-year-old brother was killed in a motorcycle accident. Gone was the calm acceptance. Gone was the comfort of a spiritual platitude. Gone was my brother-in-law.

I’ve learned that spiritual maturity is not something you reach once and for all. It’s more like climbing a ladder: the top is there, but you only reach it by climbing rung after rung after rung. It’s a lifetime’s work. And so, I keep climbing, gaining wisdom, and knowing that I am human and doing my humanly best. 
The spiritual life is a life of practice and by-god we sure get many opportunities to practice.
Rung by rung by rung by rung by rung…

Poem and all photos by me, Cheryl Capaldo Traylor

This poem was written for Vision and Voice 2017 presented at The Joyful Jewel in downtown Pittsboro, NC. Thank you, Mariah, for inviting me to contribute to a wonderful event and book!

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8 thoughts on “The Woods: A Poem on the Nature of Loss

  1. This is really an amazing post. It has so many layers of talent and depth. I feel privileged to have been able to share in your encounter, your poetry, your photos and your story. I also go to the woods to escape. So sorry for the loss of your brother in-law.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Your writing here is a delicate balance of tension and tenderness. You bring the truth and reality into sharp contrast that there is death and there is death. Death is a part of life and living. Even for us vegans eating, sustaining our physical existence, requires the sacrifice of the plants we eat. And then there are the deaths that are senseless, as in war and accident. What you bring here is an awareness of the differences. The loss of a loved one taken suddenly from a family leaves a heart and soul wound that only ever becomes, slowly, marginally less painful. My prayer is that you and your family are beginning to heal.

    Liked by 1 person

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