On My A.M. Forest Park Walks
by María Luisa Arroyo

maples & oaks reach for a sky bluing
toward sunrise | their roots erupt
through grass & gravel | the few birches
among them glow light | thick-furred squirrels leap,
their sharp nails scratching tree bark rough
under my fingers & palm | flitting blue jays caw
like crows, the crows themselves, silent shadows |
a moving boulder of a tortoise steps resolutely
through tall grasses, ignoring my gasps
as bullfrogs burp & breathe in the pond he left |
on the sloping hill, two deer butt heads
with budding horns, their white tails, not
a sign of surrender | tiny red birds sail & swerve
toward the zoo’s slanting rooftops with peacocks
peering down at me, huffing cold air |
the wolves howl in cages beyond my eyes,
their echoing laments a reminder I record:
I am a guest in nature’s house
& to be human means
that I have the freedom
to keep it, our world,
the world we share,
clean & alive
for all

PAINTING: Walk in the Meadows at Argenteuil by Claude Monet (1873).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Since May 2021, I have been taking brisk A.M. walks in Forest Park in my hometown of Springfield, Massachusetts. No two mornings are alike despite my regular route and my intentional non-use of earbuds or music. Nature’s creatures largely ignore me, a guest, as they are living and communicating in their natural world. While writing a draft of this poem, I became fascinated by the trees and nature’s creatures I saw and heard regularly.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Educated at Colby (BA), Tufts (MA) & Harvard (ABD) in German, her third language, María Luisa Arroyo is a multilingual Puerto Rican poet who enjoys facilitating poetry workshops based on art, memory, the ghazal, & objects of meaning, all of which serve to interrupt the realities of personal and historical erasure. Arroyo’s poems have been widely published including on One, The Common: A Modern Sense of Place, and Multiplicity: A Nonfiction Literary Magazine. Destierro Means More than Language, her latest chapbook, pays tribute with original poems to 32 women poets who inspire her.