The Beast in the Hollow

by tobias crabtree

What is this heaving, this lifting from the deep?

I can see you down there where the trail loses itself, where there is no easy travel, and you are moving through the cedars and the larch and the oak. I have known about you since I was a child, back when you were calling me from the black timber and the rocks dropped from the haunches of glaciers. I know your shape: the twiny, horny thicket of your nape, the old-growth elders of your spine where the ‘poorwills with bellies full of moths call through whiskered maws and flit and land longwise on the branches and disappear. I know your limbs of thunder, I’ve seen your knuckle prints in the mud above the beaver damns and I’ve smelled your musk on the trunks of aspens. And where you leave your track, wherever there is sign, there is life in every manner.

Coiled millipedes and coral snakes and leaf-nosed bats. Rough skinned newts and pronghorns and orb weavers. Walking sticks with halting steps and pale crickets and ravens saddled with human superstitions. You leave behind roots and tubers that turn to herbs. There is medicine leaching from your skin, lacing your weaver beam tail. You are mythical and biblical and you dreamt me here. You dreamt us all and now we are.

When I’m out for long enough, I hear you, faint at first but each day more. Like moving upstream and closer to the spring that filters from out of the souls of stones and boils to the surface with everything complete. These senses mix with one another and I feel colors and see cold and hear fragrance and smell the songs of the birds. I taste dreams. And then I am less man and more creature. I am made small but integral. I become a part of the ebb and flow of all tides, the accumulation at the delta and the hollowed gorge of sky above the wild river where dip and whir the swifts the swallows the hawks. What was once a language spoken becomes a simple awareness in which communication is life itself with no need for explanation or interpretation. Each breath is a truth and proof of existence.

There are old songs in your belly, down where the bears are sleeping in the duff. Melodies from the bones of poets whose blood made the ground so rich. Your tongue is thick and mossy, the toads move between your teeth while the foxes and mountain cats shape shift with the shadows in the hollow beneath your chin. And now the otters and now the shrew, the mole, the vole, the heron, the boar, the stomping skunk are migrating through your mane. Painted ladies and admirals and swallowtails and morning cloaks and skippers and sulfurs under the sun, cecropias and lunas and sphinx by moonlight. Goshawks map out silver pathways through the forest sewing the trees together into the most beautiful tapestry. Flying squirrels look through chocolate eyes to calculate distances, the drop and drag and lift and destination. Since the beginning, you have been blending these wonders of life and death, always attending that souls and bodies be taken back, returned to the source.

Include me.  I’ll wait right here where the trees are reaching down. Where the sky of stars are just only out of reach. I’m filled all up with the blues and greys and olive drabs of dusk and dawn. I’m here breathing out of duty and offering dreams as gifts for the passage. My ego, no matter how big, always seems to leave me with an empty heart. So give me instead the bees in the mint below the creek that winds in liquid amber through the aspens whose shadows hide the trout whose speckled tails hold the blueprints to the cosmos.