I’ve camped in these woods
for years and never seen a bobcat,
though the forest service says they’re here.
Today I hike down Well’s Hill, cross
Baptism Creek where it murmurs up
from an old wound in the Earth
then dodges boulders and beech trees
to enter Trespass Pond, a water named
for mystery as much as Baptism.
In November every sound becomes the crunch
of leaves, the rising and falling static
of chipmunks stockpiling their dens.
Across the country, families have been hiding
from each other for months. Counting off
the safe days since we breathed without
fear. We know it’s out there, another virus
that waits for us to drop our guard,
our hunger for others' touch sometimes
unbearable. Yesterday rain kept me
in the cabin. Today sun but cold
follows me down Baptism Creek.
I don’t need to see a bobcat to believe
one is out there in this forest.
Its feet padded for stealth. Its nose
and ears tuned to warn when I’m coming.