In the Clearing

by Patricia Hooper

Read by Emma Rye

After last night’s rain the woods

smell sensual—a mixture of leaves and musk.

The morels have disappeared, and soon I’ll come across

those yellow chanterelles, the kind they sell

in town at the farmers’ market. Once I saw

the Swedish woman who raises her own food

foraging for them, two blond boys

quarreling near the pickup, and the next morning

they were selling them from their stand beside the road.


Out here, among last year’s dead

leaves with the new shoots of spruces

poking through them, I’ve come to the place where light

brightens a glade of ferns and the log someone else

placed here—carved “B.W.”—where I sometimes sit

to listen to the birds. Today the sun is breaking through

the wet branches, revealing a clean sky,

brilliant, cerulean. Then, suddenly, a raft of scudding clouds


promising more rain. If it comes, I’ll read all afternoon—

Henry James, or maybe Eudora Welty’s

Delta Wedding, where so many characters

vie for attention I can never keep them straight.

Here, there’s no one else, no one to worry over

or argue with or love. Maybe the earth was meant

only for this: small comings and goings

on the forest floor, the understory astir

with its own secret life. If I sit still enough

among the damp trees, sometimes I see the world

without myself in it, and—it always surprises me—

nothing at all is lost.

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