A Small Geography

I remember as a child I knew each rise

and hollow in the road near my house;

in summer, the dirt turned to terracotta—

so soft that I could run barefoot,

so smooth it seemed like skin;

 

in the winter it was ice—

thick in places, in others thin,

gray or yellow, occasionally red

with the blood of small animals;

 

then the ice melted, the road drowned

in water, in the brown malt

of slowly awakening earth.

I waded through it,

water up to my boot tops;

 

I knew it like my body

that didn’t change, but did

until it all changed

until it was paved over—

black and hard.

 

I long for that small geography

that world I knew so well

that revolution of summer, winter,

spring to summer again,

so sure and yet so unexpected;

would it happen, I wondered—

and it did

it did.

 

I have left that sure geography, my world

has disappeared in asphalt, concrete;

I’ve lived in cities large and small,

walked on spit and piss

and brick as red as blood.

I’ve lost my compass,

I’ve gained doubt

and fear and loneliness;

but I realize I had them before—

had them every day

as I ran over that road.

 

And now the moist bubble-gum smack

of my feet as I go up stone stairs,

turned into a fountain by the rain,

seeing the tender pink and soft brown

bellies (or backs?) of worms swimming

downstream along with their companions

leaves and twigs and the dim shine

of small human debris;

 

I stop at the top of the stairs,

stare down at that silver wash

of water, and I see a new geography

and I pause awhile and breathe

and breathe.

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