Friday, 23 of June of 2017

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Christina Wulf – Boundaries & Borders – Terrapin

grandmas-farm-jane-harris

My grandmother’s farm in Iowa is perched
on the last hill before the prairie
GlacierGlaciers toothed their way that far
and then stopped.
The west is a lake of land;
east, the chopped foam of a rough ocean.

On this mountain, cradling the Blue Ridge,
the division is different–east is patchwork
and plow, west the last flame of wilderness.
People have toothed their way to the core. Chewed
root networks into pulp and dust.

Climbing here, I paused against a dead red oak,
slid my teeth up the black birch branch sprouted
from its heart, and snipped bud off bone
to breathe wintergreen as I climbed.

Further up, I met seven ancient hemlocks
dbck_terrapinpurple-skinned ancestors, spires on the stream.
I carry their death on my boots and skin
wooly innocent dust, faceless adelgid,
to suck their needles dry.

And at the creek, my feet falter in deep moss,
take a gash from the rocks, and nearly pit
my skull in a pitched battle with a boulder.
I catch myself, catch my shin. In a day I will wear
a purple bruise. In a day I will forget where it
came from.

Taste, dust, bruise: all we carry with us of the
memory of our deaths. The diseases that will kill us.

fig23So I reach this crest, like riding a wave
out to sea. The valley breathes its yet-wildness
upward, a misted haunting,
where the Great-Forest ghost lurks,
taunting me with visions of a plumed wave
of trees, stretching tidal-vast over eager human teeth.

Terrapin mountain swings like an arrow to the sky.
Humped across its ridgeline, a race is run
in repeating time–trickster terrapins
outwit that which feeds on speed
hemlock_woody_adelgid1and arrogance; I watch leaves glisten birth
from buds and consider the lilies–Taoism
of the Old Testament–leaves like hands touching
with unbearable lightness, Rilke’s figures on the

Attic gravestones: “we can go this far, this is ours…
the gods can press down harder… but that is the
gods’ affair” I try to walk that no sentient being
may suffer for my view–

Myth piled like a stack of turtles, cradling
the earth, all the way down.

On these borders, I long to peel my skin of color, of
country, of species. On Terrapin, I am wondering
is it possible to be human and not hate
to be human and not destroy?

A hemlock falls into the arms of rhododendron
showers its needles into the grove
and feeds sassafras to spice the air.
It pulls up a black web of roots, hung
with coiled moss. And leaves a footprint
filled with water, a breathing swamp–

Where what is chewed returns to life.

Christina Wulf
August-September 1998 Earth First!


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