Running Trails

Heaving lungs thick with honeysuckle, grasshoppers fleeing my dangerous shoes
in whirring clouds, disappear, reappear in repeated alarm,
Following the long beckoning finger in the grass, a shining signaling
to a compass spinning within,
An unspooling unsolvable riddle, to follow without arriving, to always be arriving,
always on the verge of it, always almost there, around the next bend
Turning to another bend, twisting persistent expectation,
heading to what I continually hope

Will be the unknown shimmering like heat in shadow, an endless reprise
of W. Eugene Smith’s “The Walk to Paradise Garden,”
That photograph which long ago drew me to the question of its light, never about
the sweetness of his children, that ball of alien bright just ahead of
The familiar darkness where they held hands, stepping into a promise of who knew where,
where were those children going, limitless openings,
Light leading to dark to light to dark in a forever of fearless inquiry,
through an eternity of worlds unwrapping like gifts,

Running away from my frantic parents on a trail in the woods,
Not one of my typical rebellions,
Simply unable to hear them for this latest mystery unwinding,
the cry of an infant universe was deafening,
Drowning out their human fears, a state park footpath transformed into
the boundless highways of the ancient roamers,
How often have I thought of them, tracking seas of creatures across a cryptic land
where their maps spoke no language,

Surely even these men, brutally organized for threat and profit, would pause,
the horizon thick with strange and surely their minds unmoored,
That fourth morning of the sesshin when the wall in front of me dissolved
into the not-knowing,
The terrible joy of leaning into the edge of the empty, then pulling back,
the wall and our names for things sadly returning,
The heaven my ego was saving itself from, my helpless struggle to resume
that beautiful confusion where all my knowledge was babble,

Heaving lungs thick with honeysuckle, even this trail countless times
over many years, still roused by the same corner just ahead,
Knowing exactly the ruined cedar that will be there,
gray bark peeling in shavings like an ogre’s pencil,
Yet also knowing that what I think will be the cedar is science fiction,
that I will be outlived by an infinity of possibilities,
My one past zipping shut behind my rushing feet, a dream I misremember,
each labored breath and step the only now, and now, and now.

(First published in Susurrus, Summer 2023. Thanks to the editors.)

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