Dreaming of Redwoods

for the tree people of the Stein Valley River
British Columbia, Canada

All night they were breathing, cedar and spruce, birch
     and fir, drawing the silence in, squirreling
it away, deep under root and furred moss,
     refusing to let the stillness go till even the slightest
wind slept and forgot to stir.

With long drafts they held each breath, making a space,
     a pocket to tuck the breath away, forming
small circles of stillness like waves on a beach,
     laying down strands of kelp,
nudging a pebble into place.

By midnight the trees lost their voice. The three crests
     of the mountains, the hummocks of dry
rot and sprigs, umbrellas of fern bedded and slept
     in the needles while far overhead, like a priest
blessing, the moon came splashing the clouds,

sprinkling rain on the water, small dances of smoke
     where the drops hit the surface and went under.
How the trees would start to whisper then go mute,
     afraid to make a sound, as if the silence
that held the place and the stillness to which they prayed

might be too much for them and never let them speak.
     As if the giant trees had turned children
in the dark, and any voice that spoke
     would be too much to bear.
Till now, this hour of false and first light, they shiver

like ghosts, sleeved in white coats of frost,
     hearing the flashing rapids pound boulders
like wash, just to see what the river can take.
     Only the crag, a trunk stumped by its shock
of new growth, bends like the knee of a wave of red earth.