Missing the Trees for the Forest

by Dan Fliegel Issue: Spring/Summer 2019
Walking to feel good, to get that old
feeling, trying to miss the forest for the trees,
the mind’s other wall painted with woods, and then this
coming in green against the idea of trees.

Trunks of basswood, ash, burr oak, elm and
buckthorn jumble—all are weeds and the mind
seeks to miss the trees for the forest. Who says, Teetsa,
teetsa, teetsa, teetsa, zizizizizi?

Missing the moment for the hour, all the petty
flowers, green-soaked May of the forest floor
and all that the woods stand for, blooming branches
each a reason not to miss the trees for the forest.

Pleased, pleased, pleased to meet’cha is not
what a chestnut-sided warbler means to sing while
my mind meanders into an unconscious grove
of mixed hardwoods, a wood thrush trying

to act nonchalant on a fallen branch, as if to say
you there, hopeless semantic, stuck with your leaves
in your pockets, your definitions sprawling underground
like dreams of the after-afterlife, are those

your branches, or are you just glad to see me
missing the forest for the trees, missing the minutes
for the instant. A mind trying
to watch itself, stripped and sylvan and awakening,

my mood metal, and parties of migrant
warblers, each of them flying above all invisible
borders, their coyote high on ditch weed in his cage
at the Trailside Museum, jogging

back and forth while we watch and wonder, whoever
will sing the song the strangest: zu, zur, zur, zreee or
teesi, teesi, teesi, teesi, high and sibilant, sky militant
green in reflection of the Desplaines River, missing

the forest for the birds flying, their knees
akimbo, dangling and dread free.

Dan Fliegel

Dan Fliegel teaches and lives in Chicagoland with his wife, three children, and dog. He is a poetry reader for TriQuarterly, at Northwestern University, where he received his MFA in 2016. “Missing the Trees for the Forest” is from his manuscript, Road, River, Forest.