By Julie Cadwallader-Staub

”Humankind has not woven the web of life. We are but one thread within it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves. All things are bound together. All things connect.” —Chief Seattle, Duwamish (1780-1866)

Consider a chimney
twenty-two feet
from fire to sky.

Imagine that distance descending
from the soles of your feet
to the bedrock beneath.

There, between topsoil and rock, extend
miles of roots, soil, streams, pools,
and unnamed, uncountable creatures that thrive

in twenty-two feet of peat, of sponge, of cushion
giving rise to cinnamon fern, purple nightshade, sarsaparilla,
winterberry, silver maple, high-bush cranberry, northern white cedar.

But no—give us
the conformity of gravel
the tidiness of concrete
the practicality of straight lines—
that’s what we like
not this massive dynamic complexity that we cannot capture or tame.

Yet when Superstorm Irene slammed into Vermont
tore bridges from their moorings,
flushed cars, houses, roads downriver,
carried away barns, swallowed farmland

this Cornwall swamp absorbed its velocity
contained its ferocity,
said to the towns downstream:
This is what I was made for
I am the wisdom of millennia
the multiplicity of tendrils beneath the surface

we flex, we fold,
we embrace,
we hold.

The Connecticut River Review published Cornwall Swamp in their fall 2021 issue:

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