1. Beloved: My lover pursues me through the thicket with an ardent desire of leaves opening to the sun. He leaves no footprint I give him untouched. Oh brothers, awaken not love until it is ready to be found. But when it is ready, shake it till it screams. Friends: We will hide you within the thicket. We will take the lover and break him with our hands. No one shall find you! Beloved: Let him find me in the thicket, with the leaves pressed down in the place where I saw him first, when he touched the imprint of my toes and gathered the hair pinned to the branch. Do not hide me, brothers! I want to be seen. Well-wintered I am with eyes hung in hoarfrost; no one chases, no one speeds through wild rose, where thorns cling, except the Lover, who must find me. Oh, hurry, Lover, or I will be lost. Your arms are fragile like the sapling, new to the forest, stunted by the shade. Your eyes search for me, like the squirrel waits for the sound of wings to come, that last sound. Your glasses brass, your instruments brass, and on your wrist, a circle of brass. Brass is the sign of my Lover, as he pursues. Your footfall, your breath—the smell of coffee, and decay, the sweat of your excitement. You trace my time; I track your love. Friends: Oh, do not walk on the mud where your feet will be seen. Why do you walk there? Why do you leave him any sign? We will drag the sticks across the mud and erase you. Beloved: Do not erase the signs of my love in the thicket, in the mud, in the soft places, oh, brothers. I beg of you. How long should I run from him? He pursues because he seeks the mystery; will I run to keep that mystery, or turn to reveal it? Lover: My lens never captures him, though I have taped his song. Over and over again, I play it. Till I feel I could answer him. The huff and chuff and the whistles and growls, and the howl; How it chills me in the tent of my pursuit; how it coils around me with cold hands, and promises love and death. And winter. Friends: He is just a man, smaller than most, a weasel with no brow, built more like a bird, hopping along the forest floor, peering down, and writing notes—we shall find that notebook! To read him as he has read you! Lover: Oh, beloved, how I have smelled you in the thicket, in the dense thicket of noon, and your scent to me is like simmering stew in a Coleman stove; you are peat, raspberry, smoke, cheddar, and sweat. I love you with a curious, degree-in-large-mammals love, with the intricate, discredited studies of cryptozoology, and the notes that I take, the notes of notes, the notes of your voice, the notes of your love, in the margins of The Field Guide to Beasts and Myths. Yellow highlighter is a stroke of desire. Beloved: Let me kiss him with the kisses of my mouth, and bring him the joy of my song, in the thicket when the sun streams through the branches of the pines, and the poplars; let us lie down beneath the skirt of the spruce. I build a bed of spruce boughs. My lover will not be afraid. He has seen me walk; he writes of me that I am a man of the woods, that I know the forest, that I am never lost. I know each tree as if it were my own arm, my own leg, my soul reaching to heaven. Let my hand caress his hairless thigh, let his fingers curl around my shaggy tresses, a forest of hair for him to hunt me, to search, for clues in my chest. Oh, who can find a heart, unless he searches with his? 2. Friends: We have seen his camp! Should we, O Brothers, dash his head on a stone? We see his footprints lead to the place of men! Oh, we should seize him, and break him, rend him and bury him in the thicket! Even now, he rises from his tent, his eyes search to capture you! Beloved: Capture me in the coolness of the morning, before you have wearied yourself from running. I will slow down. You can find me. My steps closer together, my footprints a path to where I am waiting in the thicket. But I cannot wait forever—the wood rose, the fireweed, the bluebell, all have their season and they open and then are gone, and I cannot wait forever. Lover: Wait for me. I have measured your stride, the depression of your heel. Do not walk so fast, your legs like oak trees uprooted from the ground; reveal to me your back, just your back, so that I might see you and be encouraged. Beloved: See me! See me! See me! I am ready to be revealed! I am where the thicket parts, where the field begins. Here I have laid down in the sunshine, to bathe in the sunshine, where the hands of the sun run across my chest as it does the wild barley grass in the meadow, where the wind strokes my stomach like the Lover! See me! See me! It is a time for honesty and revelation! Friends: But the Lover will reveal us all! He will bring others to our forests to find us! He will take the Beloved from us, and trample our forests and unbraid our ways from our hands! We have seen him in his tent of destruction—we have seen his cooking pots, his soap, his toothbrush and camera—they will blaze a swath like fire in our forest, a path like flame! Beloved: How I wish you were like me, so we could walk together in the light of the day, past the brothers and the friends, whose eyes are haughty now, but who could see you and love you as one of us; you could kiss me and they would approve This is my Lover! This is my Friend! O brothers of the Woods, do not harm him! Lover: On Dezadeash Lake, let me find your footprints; on the Tatshenshini River I canoe to find you, for your stories linger in Kluane and Pine Lakes and up the side of Tachäl Dhäl—I will travel the Yukon to find you, Beloved; I remember, I remember, that night in the woods, when you came to my tent, when you stood outside the canvas, the shadow of your body like blue water splashed above me; how you listened, with you fingers to your mouth; how I listened, how we heard each other’s heartbeat in the silence. I remember! And pursue your love! 3. Friends: Where has your lover gone, most handsome and strong brother? Which way did your lover turn—that we may look for him with you? Beloved: O wretched friends, I had a dream! I heard my lover approach, his hiking boots crushing the leaves, he called my name, Beloved, Beloved, Beloved And I rose to greet him, but when I came to his voice, he was not there. You crouched there instead, your five voices mimicking his, your smiles tore across your faces, your eyes blazing like snickiton fires that hold to a single twig, to light a forest; your mocking, glibbering howls! Oh, let not friends rot your love with doubt or shame, even if they threaten to leave you; they may spurn you; but alone you choose the hollow where your heart rests, the stride by your stride, the voice that follows you. Bring love to your hiding place. Let not their fears drive away your love. Friends: Man is weak and fragile, breaking easy in the wilderness. It is shameful to walk with him; disgusting to share his journey; revolting to lead him to our places of peace. Beloved: Oh, under the spruce boughs I shook you, but you would not rouse, Lover. Friends: It is unnatural to walk with man as one would walk with us; unnatural to seek his companionship in the meadow, in the forest, in the hidden places. See how he noted you, how he wrote about you, how he wanted to photograph you. Lover: We stand at the edge of meeting; you wait in the brush of almost ready You see me with eyes looking to be found; you trust with the hand reaching through the willow. Beloved: Beneath your head I found your notebook, your words, your discoveries, inked now in red, the pen of your thoughts and desires broken; the ink runs. My heart sinks like a heavy stone to the bottom of the lake, to the mud; There it burns and eats the lake from below, its jaws of flame consume the water, the fish and every living thing; Many waters cannot quench my love; rivers cannot wash it away. It devours and drinks and is never satisfied. Oh, Brothers, the one who pursues you, the one who studies you, who traces your shadow on the grass you left behind, he is the one that loves you. Love is a hard-fought, hard-run pursuit, the sweat of desire, the work of the heart. Lover: I long to walk with you and the night will wrap its stars around us, enrobe our souls in mysteries, in mysteries of pursuit, as stars chase stars chase stars. Come, come, come away with me. Beloved: Come, come, come back. The night empties its stars into the lake.