To retrigger vigor, my father would break an inch
or two of new growth from a balsam fir, pinch
then roll the needles between his fingers, and holding
this poultice to his nose, breathe in. And when spending
the night in a lean-to, he’d send us out to bring
him armfuls of boughs which he would overlap, needle
end over stick end, row by row, head to toe, like shingle
until the balsam bed had depth and spring
equal to the lean-to’s hard, plank flooring. Hemlock scent
is dry, rising high into the sinuses with a slight burn.
Balsam spirits penetrate, cool as fragrant liniment.
We settled quickly to rest in those needled nests,
not feeling out of place like strangers or guests,
but protected from danger—safe beyond concern.
Charles Weld has appeared in many literary magazines: Snakeskin, Southern Poetry Review, The Evansville Review, Worcester Review, Tampa Review, CT Review, Friends Journal, Vita Brevis, Better Than Starbucks, etc. Pudding House published a chapbook of his poems, Country I Would Settle In, in 2004. Kattywompus Press published another chapbook, Who Cooks For You? in 2012. His poems were included in FootHills Publishing’s anthology Birdsong in 2017. A retired mental health counselor/administrator now working part-time in an agency treating youth, Charles lives in the Finger Lakes region of upstate New York.