Omega Path


Trailhead

Welcomed by ticks and poison ivy,

maybe nettles,

and tree of heaven?  or sumac?

I sense Pennsylvania’s gone out of me.

There’s nowhere I’m native now,

but the yellow-green arching sea waves me in.


1 and 2

The path starts rocky:

a wall coming down,

boundary changed to course.

Then I’m at 2,

missing the first pause -

off to a subpar start

like most endeavors.

This pine with spokes,

wagon wheel whorls wrapping thick trunk -

she’s never seen stop one either.


3 and 4

No 3.

Guess I’m on an even path.

On the way I find a memory.

A mittened palm halts me

and my tongue goes wild.

I chew that petiole to pulp,

green turkey foot dangling

from the corner of my mouth,

a kid with a taste for sassafras again.

Sweet, woodsy, spicy,

a bit like that old-fashioned Teaberry gum

in the quaint wallpaper-pink wrapper.

Here stone rims a dry vernal pool;

hems in more green than shade.


5

A sign less obvious than what it signifies -

a rich subject:

perfect pileated ovals dripping dried sap

and a lean-to that gives no shelter

(unless you’re 10)

capped by a natural tented flag.

I whack the tree

just for my son’s sake.

Nobody answers,

just like always.


6

I only find this one on the map:

shortcut to a nap

or “steep climb.”

A tick runs over my pack.

Twice.

Not enough to dissuade.


7

So much forgetting in 25 arid years.

How a tree can hold

a hollow jug at its base,

an old trunk cleaved

til a wet vessel remains.

How in these hills

sky’s a tease.

You never get to ridgeline.

The blue beckons

but the land just rolls.


8

A lace of leafy celadon lichened limbs

might make a poet pop out

of even the most hardnosed

nonfiction truth-teller.


9

Don’t do this:

follow the sun west

to the clearing I claimed wasn’t there -

a surprising boon

from the high-tension wires.

Don’t sit on the knoll

listening to an ascending stair-step trill

from a bird you’ve never known.

If you come later,

don’t palm the raspberries

or stroke the straight-up ferns

anchored in sideways rock.

Don’t wait for the hillside to go gold -

you can already see the red in the maple.

If there’s a crackle in the line

it’s lost in cricket and wind.

Stay on the safe, tracked path instead.


10

A clear mahogany trace

outlines a life lost.

The dry light leavings of the heart-

-wood fracture to faults

punched by borings.

Behind me

the low creak

of a dead trunk

easing his load

slowly to earth.

Now singing a final song:

sometimes high like a wail

or rough like a croak

or arcing like coyote.

He’s singing us all

the forest lullabies

he ever heard,

learning what it takes to leave

his own rust track behind.


11

Crows announce 11

or maybe an owl they’re mobbing.

The whole field of stippled light sways.

I flip a fern frond searching for sori -

the currency of backwoods secrets.


12

Nuthatches spiral up around

Until I’m backbended down

trying to keep up

with their diligent beeping.

Easterners don’t know

what pleasure canopy brings:

ready shade right there

and moss at your feet.

Westerners must work

to get relief from glare.

We climb on up

into the tinder-dry spruce-fir,

straight up like matches,

casting as little cool as possible.

Even the amiable aspen

hang their leaves down -

more pendant than parasol.

But, curiously, here

in the flickering diffuse light

an ovenbird bakes.


13

An old cairn of shale

like steep-walled Walnut Creek

and the blue-grey bed

I waded in.

These rocks lined our foyer floor,

locked in a glossy layer of wax

that never felt natural,

and broke whatever landed.

But at the creek we pounded them to clay,

left mud pots to cure in sun.


14

Feathery hemlock,

near prostrate,

felled by one

weak limb.

Too tall and skinny

for its own good.

It will never wear

the skirt we used to

settle beneath

in the deep snows

of being little.


15

Backlit boulders

and an abundance of

acorn caps

walnut boats

catkin strands:

the loose parts

we staked our stories on.


16 and Trail’s End

It ends like it starts:

no sign for me.

Just a sinking spring house

and the calm assurance

of a good old two-track -

signs the way’s been known before,

maybe leading home.