The Beeches

      Painting by Asher Brown Durand 1845

Dawn creeps slowly
coloring sky in pastel
sidewalk chalk stroked across
blue mountains palest pink
clouds bits of cumulus against
lavender skies all mirrored
in the still pools waiting for
the shepherd slowly leading
his scraggly flock

him mid-sheep moving toward
the lake like a stream all of them
flowing together while behind
peeling paper beeches lean
away from rotting stumps of three
hewn away long ago perhaps to
keep the path open pulp now mossy
with beetles bits old bark beside
a pale ghost in forested dimness
leaves quivering in morning breeze
a beacon

sprung from a handful of mast
so many autumns ago or risen
from an errant root crawling
toward the light emerged as these
serrated leaves scaly trunk
a signpost along the path
the shepherd passing his hand
along the bole as he moves away
wrapped in his bright red cloak
everyday boater pulled low
slowly heading to watering where
sheep will sip mountains and sky.

(Metropolitan Museum of Art)