What tells the cell to be a cell?
What causes the cilia to sweep?
What causes atoms to congregate, to twitch,
Until the mountain goat’s leap?
Before there is life, there is will.
And after there is life, there is will.
We have will, or will has us,
The core of existence, of skill.
We are the caretakers, the foresters,
The wardens, rangeland specialists,
More than any housing manager
Consulting with phenomenologists.
When we were small, we had to tame
The forest. We wouldn’t let the bear
Tear loose, we broke the branches,
We turned the swamp into a thoroughfare.
We build the cabin in the woods,
At every stage, it grew better,
The fireplace snapped and whooshed
It illumined the red of the setter.
Beetles, wolverine, lynx, aspen
And beavers, cold, shaded pools
For fish, willow stands, magpies,
A repaired and complex order rules,
The slap of a beaver tail upon
The stream, the cougar slinking,
The wolf’s unnerving eyes, smaller
Herds of elk along the river drinking.
To break this now would break the woods,
Along the timberline, we don’t
Know what to do—what will feed
The eagles, the returning wolves won’t
Make the winters harder, the jackal
And the grizzly bear rearing,
The fleeing vole under the cottonwood,
And the unhurrying sunlight in the clearing.
Yaacov David Shulman