Middle Fork

Middle Fork

By Joshua Lefkowitz

Middle Fork Nature Preserve is a short drive from the tri-city area of Champaign-Urbana-Rantoul, Illinois. The first time I went there, it shocked my New-York-City-wired system, and the experience triggered the poem.

Taking in the nature sanctuary
step by silent step I struggled
to relax my Avenue of the Americas mind
so far removed from city sound
with only nothing
and you as company.
A shallow creek replaced the traffic jam
and a three-pronged path echoed my life so far.
This forest version of Broadway aped the original:
nothing original, relying on standard revivals
to bring in the crowds (green leaves,
green grass, a high C azure sky).
We kept walking and I wondered why
or how you could stand it!  I hated
the anxious blood-pulse inside my head,
hated how helpless I felt not knowing
where we were going;
hated the way the quiet clanged,
or the utmost of indifference offered up
by a stick stuck in thick dried mud.
But I knew, too, the good
of easy canopied light
and the humbling that comes from being
anywhere foreign or nature-oriented.
From there, you drove us home.
From there, we keep inching forward like worms
who believe in the fresh wet dirt of a rainy tomorrow.
Yet more and more I feel
there’s some answer in that arboretum silence.
It's hard and I don't know how but
I think we may need to go back.

Josh Lefkowitz won the 2013 Wergle Flomp Humor Poetry Prize, an Avery Hopwood Award for Poetry at the University of Michigan, was a finalist for the 2014 Brooklyn Non-Fiction Prize, and won First Prize in the 2016 Singapore Poetry Contest. His poems and essays have been published at Barrelhouse, The Awl, Conduit, The Rumpus, The Huffington Post, and many other places. He has also recorded humor pieces for NPR's All Things Considered and BBC's Americana.