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0 Comments | Dec 24, 2022

The Strange Tale of Jeremiah McClintock

Trees Upward

  1. In which our hero waxes perambular amid early spring woods.


A cool and blustery March afternoon

along the reaches of the Kennebec,

and Jeremiah is out,

as he is most days,

wandering without purpose or direction

the black bark forest

that lines the northern bank

and ensconces his hand-wrought cabin.

Deep into his seventh decade,

Jeremiah stops frequently,

to stretch deserving limbs

beneath venerable oak.

It is early yet for new bud growth

and he leans heavily back,

gazing upward

through branches glassy and moist.

Awash in the inspiration

of sky and wood,

Jeremiah speaks words into the sky

where they dance and cavort

to become poems and songs.

He watches them fly

and takes delight

in the bright music of breeze

soughing through branches.

Lost in the display

and the beauty of reverie,

he loses himself

and dozes

in tones sonorous and deep.



  1. In which Jeremiah awakes to a dilemma at once disconcerting and magical.


Disturbed from sleep’s subtle embrace

by the close passage of a thing

felt but unseen,

Jeremiah notes the coolness of dusk

and blinks crusted eyes

at the day’s final rays

that burn through crooked boughs

and cast orange tones

across his haggard face.

Night’s visitation imminent,

he rises reluctantly from his place,

stretches mightily

and gazes up again

at the first star’s glint.

Turning toward the distant river’s murmur

he sets out for home,

the draw of a glowing hearth

and the company of an old dog

weighing desirous upon his tired mind.

But only a dozen steps along,

Jeremiah perceives a diminution

in the river’s call,

though certain he is walking toward it.

But it matters not,

for even with the onset of night

and the fall of shadow upon shadow,

he knows his way.

He was weaned in this wood,

or at least might have been

for he has known no other place

his whole life long.

Daylight’s presence or absence

matter not a whit,

or never have until now.

He stops on the trail,

cocks his flaxen head

and hears again

the water’s distant rush,

only it is all about now

and without direction.

He wonders if his senses,

heavy with years,

have begun at last to betray him.

And then there comes

a new sound—

perhaps the breath of the living,

perhaps only some spring sonnet

adrift on the evening air.



  1. In which numerous amorphous phantasms manifest themselves.


And just when Jeremiah’s cognitive senses

begin to cast doubt

upon his perspicacious ones,

a dim but distinct blue green glow

appears in the branches

above his head.

This is no moon, he thinks,

for it is the evening

of a thumbnail crescent,

and even at its fullest,

no lunar glow ever bore such hue

nor offered warmth so close-felt.

For many moments

he stares upward rapt,

fixated upon the low branches

and the steady glow

that seems perched there

like pheasant or dove.

And so he scarcely notices

when another quite like it

creeps up from behind

to within a yard or two.

The same manner of specter,

only firmly upon the ground

rather than aloft like the first.

But the sudden faint shadow

the apparition casts across

the bed of leaves on the forest floor

does indeed make Jeremiah

turn at last,

only to marvel again.

And so it continues,

with more and similar diaphanous forms

appearing to his left and his right,

and several before him.

And only when a dozen or more

have gathered

in close assemblage

does Jeremiah perceive

the gentle low hum

that now fills the space

in which he stands

It is like the vibration

one struck string

imparts to another

when they are juxtaposed.

Which is to say

it is a secondary sound,

something induced.

Jeremiah considers tomorrow,

wonders even now

how he will describe what he saw,

what he heard,

when asked to recall it later

as he surely will be.

The ethereal phantasms,

once positioned,

do not move, save for

the subtle undulations

that attend their outermost coronas.

And at this moment

Jeremiah notes a curious feeling,

That of being trapped,

but not by the gossamer beings

that surround him.

Rather he feels trapped

inside his frail and spent corporeal body.

Trapped, yet not at all afraid.



  1. In which the luminous visitations make known their purpose.


With night’s full and earnest arrival

comes black sky

against which the

vibrant glow of the visitations

beats and thrums

in every direction

of Jeremiah’s astonished gaze.

Feeling no need of escape,

only the desire to understand,

he stares first at one,

then another,

and discerns

that the colors and brightnesses

are not as similar

as they first appeared.

Perhaps it is the greater contrast

of brilliant light on blackest night.

Perhaps simply the product

of focus and concentration.

These are distinct beings;

not mere reproductions.

And the deep sounds they make,

appear muffled and indiscernible

only because they speak

or sing

in a curious but ultimately dissectible

simultaneous and harmonious chorus.

It is only when Jeremiah

focuses intently both eye and ear

upon a single one

that he realizes their sounds

are perfectly albeit subtly discernible.

And stranger yet,

they are sounds he recognizes.

His own words!



  1. In which Jeremiah discovers a wondrous truth.


“We are you, Jeremiah.

Or more precisely, we are of you,”

they intone as one,

or seem to say,

as there are no faces or mouths,

only amorphous figures

of shifting color and indeterminate outline.

The words float and intertwine

in the air,

emanating from the visitors

and yet somehow removed from them.

“We are the words you have spoken,

the songs you have sung

in all your years of walking these woods.

We are everywhere,

in every tree branch and leaf

that soars above you,

every lichen and grass blade

beneath your feet.

Your days are short,

and we have come

only to offer thanks

and to tell you

that we will live on ageless

here in this wood,

singing your words and your songs

to anyone with the time

and the ear

to listen.

It is our fervent hope

that when your days are done

you will choose to remain

here among us

and be a part of this place.”

At which request

Jeremiah weeps,

not at the shortness of days,

for this is no surprise,

but rather at the beauty

of the sounds

and the specters

whence they emanate.

He reaches out a hand

to touch the nearest form,

but there is nothing to grasp,

only a cool dry breath

as his fingertips pass through

the hovering figure.

For a moment longer

he stands amidst them.

No words are spoken.

It is as if something

is being exchanged,

something precious.

Then, without warning or farewell,

the sounds begin to fade

and the figures rise gracefully

into the branches overhead

and Jeremiah,

looking up one last time,

finds again the path

and makes his way home

to begin the preparation.



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