Friday, March 2, 2012

Thought of a Long Walk

An old woman who had grown tired 
Of being old but not yet 
Tired of life set out one day
On foot to seek her fortune.

It was a miserable day
For anyone to walk in,
Late winter, cold and snowing
Small, icy flakes almost rain,

When the old woman began
From the home she and her man
Had built many years ago
By a remote mountain stream

In a neglected corner
Of thickly regrown forest
Where her sole winter neighbors
Were the hibernating bears.

Just to get to the village
Down in the valley bottom
Took a twenty-minute drive
In her truck in good weather,

And this day she was walking,
And it was not good weather,
And there were no warm houses
To visit along the way.

She well knew that she could die
Before making much progress,
Without anyone knowing
Or noticing for a week.

She wanted the adventure.
She had been around the world,
Married a few times, loved once,
Raised a child, outlived her man,

Been through wartime and peacetime,
Watched the great powers revolve
And fall like constellations
Passing over woods at night.

She was not interested
Anymore in what she'd done,
Those rare and ordinary
Details of death notices.

She wanted to walk into
The mystery of the woods
She'd imagined as a girl,
The hardship, dread and wonder,

Just to see what would happen,
Just to see what could happen
To a small, vulnerable self
Like a candle, caught outdoors.

She found strangeness soon enough,
Stranger for being nothing
Like what she had expected
Nor what she had idly dreamed.

Peering at the snow and trees
She recognized none of it
But felt relaxed and at ease.
She looked down and saw no path.

The woods had closed around her.
Everything was familiar
And yet nothing had a name.
The beauty was difficult,

Like a poem in a language
She had never heard before.
She walked a little further,
Then sat by a tree and thought.

When she looked up, a young man
Oddly dressed, foolish of face,
Slogged through the woods toward her.
She felt an urge to beg help.

"Young man! Young man! I think I'm lost.
Can you help me find my way home?"
"How can I help you? I am you,"
The oddly dressed young man replied.

"Then why am I out here, alone?"
"You just think you're alone," he said.
"But I'm cold and confused," she said.
"Well then, jump back inside my head."

The next thing the old woman knew,
She was warm and snug in the dark.
She even had some elbow room,
Given it was a young man's head.

She made herself comfortable,
And rode along for fifty years.
She watched the young man's adventures,
At least when they interested her.

Or she slept or met the others,
Initially few and boring
But sometimes conversational,
Inhabitants of memory.

One day, when he was out walking,
She woke up and knew he'd grown old.
She peered out through his bleary eyes
And saw something she recognized,

Her home as she remembered it
Well-built and snug in the deep woods,
No longer looking lonely
Nor too far out of the way,

Nor elderly, bored, and tired
But an enchanted cottage
She would never want to leave.
And she leapt out of the head

Of the now very old man,
Feeling a surge of delight,
Ran inside her cottage door
And never came out again.

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