1534: We never knew what we wanted to be.
1604: We did what we wanted.
1635: Language is the woods and we are the trees. We hunt for what we want in dialects.
1654: A ship falls in the forest. A fort falls in the forest. The forest falls in conquest.
1713: Treaties are a pulp and paper product.
1751: New Brunswick is a glade of blades, a hair-cutted canopy of bloodied fellings, a home for carvings and a gutted sky.
1755: Wood relegates language to a loss called exile.
1764: New language trees take root as seed is spread and cocks crow and our inextinguishable grows to give the sky back its modesty as raiment of evergreen.
1783: Hear the human voice,
1784: a girl,
1800: as she clambers up branches,
1812: her face a green droplet shooting through scorched canopies.
1825: Let’s admit this commandment: we want catastrophes of fire,
1837: a history of branded facts and oaths on the calloused hand
1838: that sweeps the forest with a gesture.
1842: Nothing higher than hay or sapling can stand.
1843: We become collapsed economies of soil,
1843: a diverse ecology numbering refineries of oil, dune smelters, and prohibitions against want.
1850: Men and women need each other as hay: he pulls her hair, she ties the bale,
1853: their little girl climbs the branches and sings Johnny Appleseed.
1854: Pulp and paper products: calendars, datebooks, bills of sale, judgements, bibles, invitations,
1859: paper airplanes,
1867: and if a man tells her he loves her, well
1871: have you ever read a love letter by an illiterate man
1875: to a smart woman
1875: as posthumous forests fall
1875: with toothpicks between teeth?
1875: The man promised time
1877: and he tried to make her laugh.
1881: Epitaphs are your dead mother and father
1888: and you write this pulp and paper product in the bough of your childhood.
1889: Little girl, sing your desperate song
1893: to the forest that it not fall.
1901: But the forest is echo—time bent into a wave, a hand that clear-cuts to the coasts.
1910: The hand of god and man falls on the soil’s cheek.
1919: Silence is horizontal.
1930: The sky is flat.
1935: New Brunswick sells logs of sky,
1950: uses dulse as aurei on all the lovers that fall.
1957: Pain circulates like winter sap.
1965: The wind carries new seed to the language farm,
1969: the hand of god and man invents second growth and second acts.
1974: Want is a renewable resource.
1987: The little girl peeps through the grass, Sussex blueberries in her teeth.
1994: She uses hay as a reed, a signal of love.
1997: She ducks under the glittering hand.
2002: She sleeps sound on the midnight-white Lymphad.
2004: Men and their seed
2005: fall silent, pulled by Skidders
2006: to the wood camp
2010: that chews up men
2010: and floats them down the baptismal vita brevis, water sloshing want want want.
2012: Want: standing in the Saint John, the woods commanded for him, Spread my ash from the bridge.
2013: Want: lying in the hospital bed, the woods asked for her: Will I survive?
Shane Neilson is a poet from New Brunswick. Poems from his new manuscript, titled New Brunswick, have been nominated for a Pushcart Prize, printed in Best Canadian Poetry 2015, and won the Robin Blaser Award in 2014.