Edited and introduced by Wesley McNair, Maine poet laureate.

In this week’s poem Portland’s Martin Steingesser remembers how getting lost in the woods at summer camp helped him to find himself.

Between Stars

By Martin Steingesser

“In between stars, what distances, and yet, how much vaster

the distance we learn from what is right here.”

– Rainer Maria Rilke, Sonnets to Orpheus

When they sent me away for the summer

at four, the journey itself felt like a year.

Mornings it was make the bed, swab the toilet bowl,

sweep floors. After, we assembled in ragged lines,

each a team with an animal name, like cubs

or tadpoles. A counselor wearing a whistle on a cord

called out activities: softball, swim…

He’d blow the whistle, and everyone ran to one.

I would turn, walk off into some nearby woods,

lose myself all morning. It’s a wonder

no one missed me. At least, no one came looking.

Don’t ask what I did. What I remember is the glow –

every moment, leaf and grass blade, every stone,

sunlight scattered among them, patches

of white fire. My heart hummed, more home

lost in woods than I have ever felt –

unless you count the territories of poems

I’m called to write, in which I lose myself,

not unlike the way I wandered those woods.

I might as easily been walking among galaxies,

green distances between leaves endless as stars.

My own certain way – maybe where poetry began

for me, before thinking, before knowing, speechless

in the green world where I wanted to stay.

Take Heart: A Conversation in Poetry is produced in collaboration with the Maine Writers & Publishers Alliance. Poem copyright © 2013 Martin Steingesser. Reprinted from “Words & Images,” 2013, by permission of Martin Steingesser.