After the guilt borne like oxen,
hungers denied their proper lungs,
and honesty flatlined out of fear.
After the inadvertent knifings of the heart,
words rifting a cellular divorce. After the pockmarked disturbance
of disappointment, the intimate failures carving their grooves
into shoulder blades and the narrow spaces between ribs. After the graceless
uprisings that resulted in a house worn down to the nubs.
After the leveling waves of shame and sorrow.
After the itch of misgiving, and the strangely winged
freedom that nevertheless pulls the body under.
After all that was wrong had been teased out,
and the great list assembled and filed in a box labeled “history.”
After the box had been hefted into the garage
for the next trip to the dump. After the rumble down an uneven road
that brought the car to a standstill at the foot of a pit
spilling with lists, trails of flawed reasoning and unmet longing,
burnt offerings from the frontlines.
After all this, there was nothing to do but walk the woods trail
with autumn drifting her scent among the leaves still clinging,
to take care with the roots underfoot
on the way to a river marked by swiftness and sound,
and to concentrate on the important matter of forgiveness.
Then watch as late afternoon light passes almost as if by accident
on a detour, the foliage thinned enough to convince a path
from what had been certain – by all appearances – to be a dead end.
Once you have let go, you are not empty.
Once the skin of your unease has molted, the flesh reveals
its secret elasticity and knowing.
And so, it is with unusual new grace that legs bypass
rain-rotted half-logs and trapdoors of tall grass camouflaging mud.
An invitation articulates itself, weaves into October’s sweetened air,
and that is enough to make the advance to the outer bank,
the S-curve fenced by still-lush maples and exclamation points
of mushrooms and bright red berries unquestionably lethal.
A felled trunk lies equipoised between shorelines,
like a doorway, a release from all that was, and the imperative
is clear and simple.
It is not a dance, a balancing act, a levitation, a circus trick
involving stilts and an absence of gravity. It is gravity incarnate,
torso in blunt contact with bark, knees pinning inward
to steady the last half of the body. The crossing happens
in inches, time irrelevant as dust, and underneath, urging,
the chill and swirl of river water and slicing edges of rock.
You cannot not look down or up or back. It is this:
one quadrant of log and the next, nothing more or less than
the available strength of arms composing each shift forward.
The forgetting will begin soon enough but for now,
you will understand this moment
exactly as it is:
your life, being felt,