I’ve belted my love
in rich, embossed leather,
buckled tight around my waist;
my sorrows, I’ve slung
over my tired shoulders,
where they rest as weights
in a ragged and beaten rucksack,
one whose strap cleaves deep
into my aching muscles.

I tread a path
I’ve walked before,
yet never will again.
It’s familiar—I know it,
and yet I don’t.
The scenery is always the same,
but the journey changes
with each trip.

Side to side, the stippled green
sprays downward
from the setting sun.
It penetrates the over-web:
that dense, bowed mesh
of close-knit tree branches
that bend like sheltering arms.

They whisper to each other
in a wooden, skeletal rasp—
an ancient, long-forgotten tongue.
It’s the language of the forest;
the language of this place.

They speak to a lush understory
of creeping gray moss,
ferns that spread like reaching fingers,
and tender seedlings,
raising themselves freshly
into an unfamiliar life.
Giant logs, damp and molding,
covered with disc-like mushrooms,
offer themselves as food
for this future generation—
a sacrifice of forbears
to nurture the cycle.

My body tires of travel—
I’m exhausted.
This road has asked a toll,
one paid in blood, spirit, and sacrifice.
And I have purchased every inch.

Here, now, in this distant place,
I am utterly depleted.
My pallor is a ghost
and my will retreats like wax
running from a shrinking candle.
I have burned low,
and my body—
once robust and full—
has slowly exsanguinated.

A clearing climbs into view,
where the tall black march of trees
abruptly halts its advance,
as if ordered to stand,
still as lampposts,
and maintain its front.

Beyond, I see a pad of downy grass
that sprawls until it butts against
the serpentine bank of a stream.
It’s a welcome scene—
the perfect rest stop
for a weary pilgrim.
Broad shafts of light slant
through the waning canopy;
tickling the water’s skin,
and bouncing echoes of themselves
in dabs of dancing colors.

Closer, a sound gently rises
above the old whispers;
a sound of birds upon birds,
whose magnificent croon
is a lullaby of layered melody—
the sound of harmony and peace.
Everywhere, in every space,
an ever-changing fugue
of masterfully woven notes—
one that is far too perfect to exist.

A man idles by the water’s edge—
from thirty yards or more,
I know the broad frame of his silhouette.
My beautiful brother,
with his hazel eyes and rakish half-smile,
stands and waits, long dead.
I know for whom he waits.

How long?

Like me, he’s just arrived
and eyes the babbling creek,
scuffing the soft ground with
the toe of his shoe.

He’s always been here;
he’s always waited.

This forest is forever;
it is without border or boundary—
never was it born,
nor will it ever expire.
It simply is.

Soon, but not yet.
My love and my sorrows,
I bring with me;
they compel me journey further,
until I reach the place
where I can set them free,
resolved and unbound.

But for now,
all I hear is birdsong.



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