A mile into these humid woods,
I swat. A speck of fluff goes down
to the leaf mold, quickly replaced
in line: same appetite, same whine.
I understand the passion to live,
to be outlived. I feel it. How can
it burn so fiercely in things so small?
That professor and his wife,
of hearsay: their pact was suicide—
the passion to die together, prepense;
family acquiescent, told in advance;
the children all raised to maturity,
every chapter read twice, the chronic
turning acute, the acute terminal.
I understand this too. A day I took
as boy’s due, feckless boy in shorts,
sunburn peeling, became precious
as it ebbed, yet will grow wearisome
when body can no longer bear it.
That night, the mourners will hover
and bend, keening like mosquitoes.
The book borrowed long ago
must finally be returned.
Russell Rowland is a retiree, grandfather, and trail volunteer in New Hampshire’s Lakes Region. A seven-time Pushcart Prize nominee, he is a past winner of Old Red Kimono’s Paris Lake Poetry Contest, and twice winner of Descant’s Baskerville Publishers Poetry Prize, and of the Plainsongs Award. Two chapbooks are available from Finishing Line Press, and a full-length collection, We’re All Home Now, from Beech River Books.