Lost in the Woods in an Election Year

Two fall poems by Leah Falk

foggy woods

Lost in the Woods in an Election Year

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Automatic Season

Oak, pine, and moss repeat 
like an ad for moss, pine and oak.

Scramble the woods 
you’ve walked in before, get the woods 

you’re about to walk in. The brain 
prepares its autumn efficiencies: 

auto-complete the colors of trees 
with their heads on fire. Put the song 

you sing to keep hunters away 
on loop. Watch your round blue body 

ravage the map, track your exhaust 
of mileage and elevation. In this life, 

information’s a kind of insurance 
against the sound of your own 

lonely voice, warbling When I fall 
in love, it will be forever into the leaves 

you mulch as you walk, each fallen 
at a different stage of loss: 

bone, leather, stone, rust. Against 
the young pine prone across the trail, 

mottled with brown so pigmented 
it’s purple, broken out in neon lichen. 

Here, in a palette trimmed from your vision 
for infrequent use – sky’s pre-winter blue, 

route highlighted in moss – 
is your mother telling you secrets 

she never recorded, parts of her 
that don’t belong to you. Here, 

above a puddle’s sudden ankle-depth, 
a hanging leaf scraped of its lamina 

so a threadbare fabric remains. 
A sentence you, with all your words, couldn’t 

have finished. 
                   Little blue pulse, 
your heart stopped at a rifle’s far-off report,

keeping your bad eyes peeled 
for pink blazes that promise

you aren’t lost: 
                    you’re a secret too, 

unfinished, unlikely organism, colors 
all wrong for the scheme and season. 

Election Year Diary

After the convention blooms a rash
of dark hibiscus: color of the lipstick
I put on to leave a certain print:
fainter, yet more permanent reflection.
At the rotary, all tempered glass,
a tour guide’s voice makes riders feel they’ve rounded
history’s bend. Just where his monologue
hairpins toward resolution and the route

loops back to Independence Hall—restrooms
and souvenirs—the flowers wad their wine-
red faces into the refuse of mourning, 
handkerchiefs strategically abandoned
among the old revolution’s symbols
as they fell: inked scroll, cannon, cracked bell. 

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