knowing the steps toward home (audio 5:19)

Laura Petty, a 6 Year Old Berry Picker on Jenkins Farm, Rock Creek, Maryland, 1909, by Lewis Hine

I can scarcely tell you where I’ve traveled
The maps have yet to be drawn
Terrain emerges from heights and depths in every moment
Uncharted landscapes arise with the sun.

I know only that I wandered among the dunes
Weighed down by ancient sacks stuffed full of recrimination
Earthen pots brimmed with incomplete assumptions
Sacred oils nested deep within the skins of alabaster jars.

I turned down dusty highways ringed by sage and supposition
Met my own gaze behind bovine eyes and waving prairie grasses
Only to be jolted out of a creeping complacency
By the applause of thunder and hot-white lightning
Rumbling and riveting their way across an unsettled sky.

It is not words on paper that make the poet
But the way in which one creates the poetic life,
The deft melding of rhythm and meter
The juxtaposition of long, languid strokes of yearning
With staccato bursts of becoming,
The full and rich laid up against the dark and empty
Glorious containment coupled effortlessly with the unknowable everything
And a fractal patterning that presages cycles now run their course.

My poetry lives in my every step
Every in-breath and exhalation
It unfolds from the deepest recesses of a heart
that will not clang shut the drawbridge,
From a soul whose Divine connection may sway
under the weight of human machinations
Yet will steadfastly refuse to exchange faith for fear,
or compassion for complicity.

These scratchings on the discarded bodies of trees
Are not byproduct but prima material
They rest in the marrow of every bone
Until they wrestle themselves free in the face of most formidable foes,
Stanzas irregular, ponderous executions of wordplay obsolescent
Rhyme schemes interwoven in a crazy-quilt of flash and introspection
Neither pen nor ink hastens the dredging.

I sat on the wall,
Flanked by the generous abundance of summer
And the passionate celebration that autumn brings,
The sun, the moon, the stars embrace me with flagrant arousal,
My poembody arcs in erogenous splendor.

Weary of the shifting sands
I have come down off the dunes
Lassoed my own roots and tilled my inner soil
The tongue of the mesa licks clean my wounds
As Creation’s immensity comforts a chafed and weathered heart.

Let it be said that my first gesture was to smile
That I did not shirk when called to action
That I put down my knife, my sword,
Tempered the call of my drum,
And moved on with not a glance behind me.

If I carried doubts
Let it be said they remained unnoticed
That my fear receded quietly and without pause,
That hesitation made no appearance on the empty stage
And resistance slumbered on ‘neath a blanket softly tossed.

Let all who observe speak of a quiet glow surrounding my crown
An inexplicable flurry of wings
Echoing a muffled heartbeat cross twilight-kissed skies,
Let them remember that birdsong filled the trees
And made its way in all directions,
That a gentle peace descended o’er me
And that my footsteps carried me Home.

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