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All we need to do is step aside

Announcing six new poems by Sean Prentiss, inspired by Woodbury Mountain Wilderness Preserve

NEWT participates in a collaborative project called Writing the Land, which pairs poets with protected lands. Poets are invited to spend time in Nature with the unique wonders of conserved landscapes to inspire all-new poems. The project is described as “an attempt to honor nature and our relationship with it in a way that is as equitable and transparent as it is deep and entangled.”

Poet Sean Prentiss has shared six new poems written during his time in residency at our Ambassador preserve in Vermont, Woodbury Mountain Wilderness Preserve. His new poems highlight the a depth and wisdom that are at times bold, as with “This Mountain Cares Nothing,” and at other times calm and lyrical, as with “Aging Tree in Sunlight in a Wilderness Preserve.”

Woodbury Mountain Wilderness Preserve protects vast, carbon-rich forests and wetlands in Vermont and more than 39 miles of headwater streams. At 6,098 acres, it is the largest non-governmental wilderness area in the state of Vermont. Learn more about this Preserve here.

It is our pleasure to share this series of poems with you.

A photo of a forest in the wintertime with snow on the ground.

Natural Climate Solution

by Sean Prentiss

The maturing forests of

Woodbury Mountain clutch

five hundred thousand tons

of carbon within heartwood

otherwise to be chainsawed

back into our atmosphere if

we only dreamed in log length.

Instead, if we dream this forest

into forever-wild, another

six hundred thousand tons of

carbon will be inhaled by

matured forests. A natural climate

solution requiring nothing more

than for you and you and me

to step back, do nothing, allow

this mountain preserve, these

trees, to age into old growth.

A photo of a snowy forest.

This Mountain Cares Nothing

by Sean Prentiss

This mountain traverses into four towns—
Worchester, Woodbury, Elmore,
and Hardwick.

The mountain knows these are false borders,
lines drawn to feel as if
we control what is most wild.

Woodbury Mountain cares nothing
about us. It does what it does, and we pretend
to have some say in its existence.

World Grow Wild

by Sean Prentiss

These maples, beech, ash,

white pines, hemlock,

and birches through

photosynthesis inhale

carbon dioxide from our

humid air, fix it to their sugars,

release oxygen,

converting carbon into

their living being,

into their growing biomass

till they die, rot,

fall to the slopes of

Woodbury Mountain.

There is no better

carbon capture technology

in the world

than these trees slowly sinking

roots into soil,

slowly reach toward

our sky, leaves blooming

out in greedy grabs

for all the carbon

we would love to rid

ourselves of.

All we need to do is step aside

and let this world grow wild. 


by Sean Prentiss

These mornings, fog obscures the peak,

sags low, veils the twin waterfalls,

recharged by September’s steady rain.

Fog moves as if alive, slowly rising, falling,

dissipating, gathering, obscuring. It turns

this mountain into something fractured,

piecemeal, mysterious. I gaze up, into

fog’s obscurity, and see Woodbury

Mountain as if for the first time.

A photo of people walking through a snowy forest.

Aging Tree in Sunlight in a Wilderness Preserve

by Sean Prentiss

Upper branches

of old maple

grab toward

dawn glistening

upon autumn’s bark.

It is a dream to know

this maple will stretch

for the suns of all seasons

till it ages, withers, weakens,

just as I am doing.

It and me, we will die here

in the place of our roots.

Let us die the way we are

meant to, roots rotting,

bodies decomposing back

into the soils of our home.

A photo of a snowy forest.

And Still

by Sean Prentiss

This morning, as with every morning, our sun first gently settles upon the highest crests of Woodbury Mountain. This morning, as with every morning, our sun slowly pours itself lower upon the slopes and rock faces of Woodbury Mountain. This morning, as every morning, our sun settles itself upon the valley floor and then migrates west until it reaches this house where I am finally illuminated in late sunlight.

All of this happens this morning and every morning and will continue until I am buried nearby, until this house crumbles into earth, until these white pines and sugar maples tumble home and decompose, until this mountain range, already half a gigaannum old and weary, erodes itself into plains and prairie, and still our sun, this morning as with every morning, will shine upon our Woodbury Mountain wildness.

Photography by Sophi Veltrop