I woke by first light in a wood
Right in the shadow of a hill
And saw about me in a circle
Many I knew, the dear faces
Of some I recognized as friends,
I knew that I had lost my way.
I asked if any knew the way.
They stared at me like blocks of wood.
They turned their backs on me, those friends,
And struggled up the stubborn hill
Along that road which makes a circle.
No longer could I see their faces.
But there were trees with human faces.
Afraid, I ran a little way
But must have wandered in a circle.
I had not left that human wood;
I was no farther up the hill.
And all the while I heard my friends
Discussing me, but not like friends.
Through gaps in trees I glimpsed their faces.
(The tree grow crooked on that hill.)
Now all at once I saw the way:
Above a clearing in the wood
A lone bird wheeling in a circle
And in that shadowed space the circle
Of those I thought of still as friends.
I drew near, calling, and the wood
Rang and they turned their deaf faces
This way and that, but not my way.
I stood alone upon the hill,
And it grew dark. Behind the hill
The sun slid down, a fiery circle;
Screeching, the bird flew on her way.
It was too dark to see my friends.
But then I saw them, and their faces
Were leaning above me like a wood.
Around me they circle on the hill.
But what is wrong with my friends’ faces?
Why have they changed that way to wood?
—Donald Justice, “Sestina”
Art Credit Suzanne Caporael, “633 (Field 2)”, 2012, Oil on linen, 60 x 90 inches, 152.4 x 228.6 cm