Oct/Nov 2019 Poetry

One-Way, Out and Only

by Jeff Burt

Image courtesy of The British Library photostream

One-Way, Out and Only

I watch the hikers come and go but never their return—
           we live on a one-way, out and only,
wending to campsites a mile away,
           called a loop but not in the manner of a circle
but a helical coil with start and termination.
           They ask how far it is, and knowing they are stuck
until it ends I tell them not much farther,
           a few bends, a climb, and then in the way a messiah holds
his followers, promise the everlasting downhill walk.

One day, I dream, someone will turn an ankle
           and re-turn our way, or a nest of wasps will burst
from a well-placed stick from an errant hand
           and all those hikers from all those years
will come running back in front of me
           like water forced uphill must settle finally at my feet.

I think of all the braided girls and ponytailed women who vanished,
           the dads in new tennis shoes ill fit for woodruff trails,
the cocky boys all bluff and swagger
           who'd be drained of piss and vinegar
by the sight of a bobcat tail.
           Instead, I collect the chapstick tubes and trail mix bags
the crows and stellar jays inspect.

I'd like to plant a sign that says
and I suppose that's the way I want all things to go,
           steel returned to iron ore on Lake Superior ships,
paper back to pulp, pulp to wood,
           wood to tree, Gulf Stream to Mississippi River
to Fox River to Crawdad Creek to the little spring
near Highway 23 where I kneeled and drank water
           just above the temperature of ice,
my mother now dead from cancer kneading an apron like bread
           anxious that the world would snatch
me up, and lure me away.
           I would like to tell her that it has.


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