Letter to the Person Who Carved His Initials into the Oldest Living Longleaf Pine in North America

Matthew Olzmann

                                                                     —Southern Pines, NC

Tell me what it’s like to live without
curiosity, without awe. To sail
on clear water, rolling your eyes
at the kelp reefs swaying
beneath you, ignoring the flicker
of mermaid scales in the mist,
looking at the world and feeling
only boredom. To stand
on the precipice of some wild valley,
the eagles circling, a herd of caribou
booming below, and to yawn
with indifference. To discover
something primordial and holy.
To have the smell of the earth
welcome you to everywhere.
To take it all in, and then,
to reach for your knife.

Matthew Olzmann is the author of two collections of poems, Mezzanines, which was selected for the 2011 Kundiman Prize, and Contradictions in the Design, both from Alice James Books.  He teaches at Dartmouth College and in the MFA Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College.