Summer Edward

forest psalmody

“Whoever moves within the forest can partake directly of sacredness…”

– from The Island Within

Oh let us hear,
upon this rock,

the forest singing in its mass,
Sabbath tongue

of tree and fan leaves
playing the wind, organ,

ululant strains
of dark and light.

Let us, to the littoral
niche of islands

named for saints─
Saint Giles, unspoiled

as the Hermit’s
transfigured face─

tread our weary way.
On behalf of your congregations

of the migrant, of the roaming,
I repent for roaming

too far. Our grandmothers knew
the forest, close

procession of canopies
humming godstongue to the sky,

how full the monastery of night
creatures grew in chorus

when silence was
the God’s truth of these isles.

Above, constellations seared
on a black anvil heaven,

but only the iguana scuttling through
the forest heard the forging

of our concrete history,
naked foot resting on a now-lost rock.

Let us go then as the Amerindian
to her sylvan worship,

hear the holy witness of mora,
the crappo’s ancient testimony.

Pause as black bodies
of tamanduas, still as zemis

before the dark orison
of a peccary, perhaps,

dying in the grave and ritual
circle of the guatacare grove.

Here, a lamentation of macaws
haunts the bois mulatre.

Across the river’s wide scroll,
bitterns write their lapidary scripture,

drill into moss-crusted stones,
gem the specular surface.

At shore, mangroves hunch over
studying the river’s illumination

as priestly caimans prostrate
in silk tabernacles of water.

To this stand of sacredness
we come supplicant,

from forgetful cities.
Shaking off the lonely

sleep of civilization, dead
growth of revolutions,

we sing the great forest lyric.
Oh quivering

librettos of undergrowth,
oh plainsong of the kiskidee,

oh musical ring of heartwood,
teach us to sing again in your language.

Our Lady of Acres,
grant us your benediction.

Open the folio of foliage, each leaf
of the canticle turning

toward a new-blooming age,
wildlife of recollection.

The understory telling
our human chronicle.

Bell apple of our Eden
tolling in perennial light.

Summer Edward, M.S.Ed., grew up as a third culture kid in Trinidad and the USA. An alumna of the University of Pennsylvania, her writing has been published in The MillionsThe Columbia ReviewHorn Book MagazineThe Missing SlateNew Daughters of Africa (HarperCollins, 2019), New Worlds, Old Ways: Speculative Tales from the Caribbean (Peepal Tree Press, 2016) and many more. She divides her time between her adopted hometown, Philly, and her Caribbean homeland, Trinidad and Tobago. Read more of her work at