- Reading a Book in the Woods
The spindly trunks of two treeshave twisted twice around each other.This is what I see when I look upfrom reading. I've read the page on the rightthen turned to the left-hand page and read.I've read the book all out of order,beginning in the middle. Now,by looking up, I know the bookis reading me. And there I amin a middle chapter, whistling,and knocking the back of my hand againstthe motionless fruits of a hawthorn tree,an action that has no consequenceunless the lifted hand and the branchleft swaying after are symbolic.I could see it that way, but also seehow simple it is, how very littleis happening—no memoryis leaking out, no evidentsigns of despair. There's sort of a dot,dot, dot at this point in the book,and I don't think the ending offersmuch more. Maybe the sun goes downand someone whistles in the dark,or maybe it ends with pale lightstill visible above the treesand one has been changed, and walks fartherinto the woods and farther than that. [End Page 23]
Maurice Manning's most recent poetry collections are One Man's Dark and The Gone and the Going Away. A former Guggenheim fellow, Manning has been a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and is a member of The Fellowship of Southern Writers. He teaches at Transylvania University and in the MFA Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College.