blackbirdonline journalFall 2017  Vol. 16 No. 2
an online journal of literature and the arts
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Out and Back

Keeping the reservoir on our right
as a clock keeps time,
between its good ear and steadiest hand,

we lean into the mountain.

Your old body and mine
(age: you minus you
before me) draw
themselves over and over, over
and over themselves,

until they are finished.



This is California in the rough spring, after drought.
Careful of erosion, we pick between
its hoard of water
and its fire roads.
From that narrow gully, we were brought.


We hear on the news: a local woman walking in the moonlight
came up dead in a dry creek below the trail.
From that narrow place, God brought
wild iris studded on the vale,

pink blooms

of pain in the joints.


The trail bends a way it shouldn’t, according to the map.
You stumble on a root, bone of this road
that everywhere suddenly shows.

Keep the water on your right
and you will end as you’ve begun, 
the trail guide says. 

But I’m already far

from this:

back in a museum’s ancient wing,
where I saw a kind of vase with claws,
vessel terminating in the foreparts of

some animal, stupid, walking the trail after dark,


a trail it knows from childhood. 
Its face appears familiar but I don’t
recognize its feet. Finishing as they do

in a flush of blossoms,
in another country.  

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