View from

Lost in the Woods

(JP Valery)

“Lost in the Woods is a symptom/of heart’s sudden loss/of direction registered in small/persistent cramps and little gasps.”


Lost in the Woods is a symptom

of immaculate intent caught

in quagmire’s etymological

dispersion into late 16th century,


first use 1579, stunning if you

stop and wonder how do they

know that, it’s just a distant sound

Chaucer’s air ybroken in Time’s


river roar, but then recorded

brings it down to this stuff, scratch,

scratch, click, click noise of fix’s

longing for the sound, no quag


allowed, though you can no more escape

quags than fly to the—we used to say moon,

but that’s out now as some corporate

Entity is flying there as we speak,


having plundered this place

to the point of falling apart—there

may not even be a Woods

to get lost in by the time they’re


done with us—now they’ve got

the moon in their sights and she’s

not going to be happy, it’s bad enough

Neil Armstrong left bags of frozen


piss there, one small piss for mankind,

that old male marker staining her alabaster

face, now they plan to bring in machines

rip her open, dig into her body


with drills and claws, rape her

while wounded Earth watches lust

for gold (and lithium) foul all human

connection to celestial orbs


and their spirits rendering the Woods,

her demesne after all, Private

Property properly posted Stay Out

and cinched with a tall fence



for Joe Napora


Lost is the Woods is a symptom

of disorientation thinks soul

is given when it has to be earned, you

have to learn to hear the stones’


morning song roused with the warmth

of first light the crows rise to, black

cloud ruckus, joy cacophony stones

can’t match at those frequencies


still, lithodomous buzzes with familiar

fit, home sweet home, star light’s port

in morning’s mystery, if we knew anything

we wouldn’t be here, Jack said, where


do you come from being a question

unheard in all the noise we take

for furniture, meubles Olson said,

someone left us in familiar arrangement


holds us in position reminiscent

of pretzels which we take for

the Perilous Path having forgotten

how to listen to the stones’ song



I think that I shall never see

A poem lovely as a tree

—Joyce Kilmer


Lost in the Woods is a symptom

of Uncertain’s disdain for literary

drainage project’s war on the swamp,

what the quag did to deserve that


remains a road not taken,

a stand the line insists on even as

paradisum voluptatis beckons

seductively down the page, salvaged


from trips through imaginal wilderness,

and left there as a kind of strange

attractor or angelic lover

which you could just delete


as happens more often than

you’d hope given the current

poverty of imagination and blood

lust’s compulsory sides, kerchiefs


Emerson had it, blind folded

and certain their righteous

opacity will win, a little paradise

could lighten things up, slip in a few


laughs, stakes being what they are,

Blake’s Albion haunting the arras—

an allusion to numerous old poets

like Shakespeare and Eliot, and Blake of course,


which establishes this as a serious poem

with its eye on the quagmire—or

stumbling down an alley three sheets

to the wind, badly in need of a place


to piss, a long way from the Woods

if you use Newton’s Ruler but right there

deep in shadow, trees here

trees there, if you swerve past him


into topographical contortions

of imaginary Realities where paradise

is just another day

picking your way through words



Lost in the Woods is a symptom

of heart’s sudden loss

of direction registered in small

persistent cramps and little gasps


signify breath’s reluctance or some

heart felt absence, a little void

appears in the right ventricle, passes

through pulmonary valve into the left


one where it implodes into a small

black hole, a new sense of cardio

interruptus, but then death

always lurks in the shadows


or for that matter lounges in the sun,

at this point she might as well be

my best friend, constant companion

little noted, just there every day


at eye’s edge, a small difference

in the angle of light and meaning

collapses, though maybe prolapses

is more like it, the bottom falls out


of the heart and grotesque love

protrudes, judgment in its eyes

its lips deny, leaks onto the floor

hardens into a sticky pool



who reads

with her eyes closed,

translates syllables

spoken by oak leaves,

smoke in the wind,

hum of bees, goat liver,

ring in the mouth of a fish

— Billie Chernicoff


Lost in the Woods is a symptom

in search of a cause in Uncertain’s


swerve past Newton’s last stand

into a cosmos swirls in green


eyes across a table, a cosmos

distended with blood’s rush


into archaic channels governed

by scent and swells, inflamed with light


leaks through holes in night’s mask

into names’ swollen beyond


and within, each blade of Walt’s

grass, each star’s blaze, god-stuff,


Aphrodite being a string

of syllables taut with skin’s


thrill to touch, tongues’ grapple

with knowledge of ancient love,


and love to come, souls bound

each to each, rendered here


in memory’s shared syllables

uttered in the dark



Lost in the Woods is a symptom

finally of Uncertain’s confusion


of hearts—his, hers, whose

is it beats so fiercely it recalls


depths of knowing the sea harbors

in its salty womb where one


is two and two sit across a strange table

from each other wrapped in a warm murmur


whose sybilline overtones ring

with prophecy’s language uttered


in a calculus of flesh and light,

of arms and hands, of eyes, of mouths


unable to tell whose tongue unfolds

lambent naught, labile entrance


into a secret binds surprise in loves’

embrace, in lucid dreams hold out hope


for some zone of meeting unfettered

by duty’s demands, the claim of ordinary’s


daily round, through orders of fidelity

that precede cardiac supernovas no one


expected or old visions of a burning house

echo with salvation even as doom’s


shadow flickers within the flames. The Woods

reek of tenebrous reaches where another


seeks a way toward you, godly encounter

that heats the world with what burns


in heart’s longing, sea washed eyes, green

glass smoothed in watery caress, look


out from where She is born, whose gifts

bring down empires littered with bodies


pile up in the wake of her casual

passage, as if nothing matters but her gift


a delicate flame beneath my skin

Sappho said, and trembling seizes my body


bittersweet, irresistible, loosening limbs

leaves warrior and poet alike


down on their knees, gasping for breath, pleading

show me a way through this beauty.


Michael Boughn’s most recent books of poetry are The Book of Uncertain: A Hyperbiographical User’s Manual, Book 1, which was released with Spuyten Duyvil in 2022, and Uncertain Remains, which was released with BlazeVOX in 2022. A collection of essays, Measure’s Measures: Poetry and Knowledge was published by Station Hill in 2024. He is currently working on Book 2 of The Book of Uncertain.

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