Little fish bump and kiss loose skin around the edge of abused feet.
They feed, and tickle toes lips sweetly parted where a blister used to be.
Frightening. But gently.
Only little ones come that close.
Big fish became big fish by being fish who know
bodies seldom stop at the toes.
Movement is movement in sunlit clear fluid
and distance is a bent and twisted point of view.
I raise my hands sharp and flattened. Like a band director.
Little notes with speckled fins and silver bellies
leap at the chance to play a melody.
Whole schools of music maneuver at the flash of my hand.
Under the twitch of a pen.
Breaking water with only eyes.
Playing with fish
with my feet dry.
Climbs hundreds of feet in a single hour, with his two.
Carries a quarter his body’s weight.
Groans like an old man when he sits up or stands down.
Knees dryly creak across dry creeks and he sits on logs and logs.
Butt in a round impression on an iceberg-buried rock. Good.
And cool. And lichen spotted. And dog drool.
Feet worse than snakes about shedding off all their skin. Three hundred in.
Talking miles. Mouth flapping open smiles.
Words work mystic magic over rocky ground
and poisoned leaves of three in faded yellow speckled bouquettles.
One boot to stop you.
Two boots can set you free.
Tied up tight. Below the knees.
Harden your sole.
Faster than a speeding pullet chased by foxes after all she’s got,
to the very top, in a single hour, or at least a couple
firewood bundled all tight together.
He is quite possibly the worst hiker ever.
But he breaks hundreds of feet in half dividing them by two.
He draws sugar from the sun lips puckered on the run.
And eats dinner with boulders and calls oaks sisters and brothers
and makes believe nature holds a candle to his own mother.
He is yours. He is not super. But he is here. He understands.
He is here to under-stand. Not long on top of. Under. Stand under.
Under Stand. This is no child of the gods.
What we have here is the restless little brother of Man.
If we take our lives at face value, as in, we assume,
almost all creation came about the same way we did,
then we have a clear precedent for the possibility of making a thing,
damn near conjuring it up from spare parts
and convoluted yet meticulous genetic instruction,
yet still not understanding it in the least.
God could be out there begging pretty please.
While we proud-child our way out of the room.
God may be all knowing, all seeing, held breath disbelieving,
still unable to change a thing without unsettling the child sleeping.
Whom we are grooming for the wild.
Who can not live its entire life within the dense jungle growth of family.
Saplings don’t grow tall in the shade of giants.
Only where they fall.
Our deity may be very much the same thing to us as our parents.
Different. Person to person. Story by story.
The source of our entire existence. Out there.
Driving to work. Or playing golf, or church, or retired,
or buried somewhere.
If our universe is grooming us to go out and re-invent worlds of our own,
it makes sense for our farmer to be more hands off.
Our great, almighty, omnipotent, gracious, loving creator,
just waiting on a postcard.
The pressure is forgotten. Rocks are still here though. Older boulder heads jutted out from the hillside.
Flipping birds off to the blue sky.
Lichened into smiling, sharpened grins slicing shoes.
Leftovers of weight chewed up by time.
Root gripped and green grass headed.
The pressures that shaped their minds far behind.
Barely scarcely remembered been so dismembered.
So it is easier to sow seeds in dirt and let
soil tell the story. Of mountains. Mounting pressure.
And time. Of boulders and great massif crowns
and lichen the color of lime eyes spread open wide. Upholding the sky.
Which might be much lower otherwise.
The sky may even come down all the way
and touch the ground
if not for mountains.
Shhh. Shushes the wind. Fall is falling in. When it only wanted to get its feet wet.
Now we are drenched in wind.
Squeaks the trees. Groaning grinding bark
above their tangled feet. Fire in the ground.
Roots get hollowed out.
And all you see is smoke.
She said it was worst form of fire.
Hugging its own arms and legs as it gets torn apart. Eaten by the breeze like a river swallowing creeks. There is an ocean in the sky.
Birds swim, they don’t fly.
Trees filter like ferns for light.
And vines vy for their height.
Same as eyes. Stared up.
Open. And out.
While autumn shushes all, gold leaves fall,
and tall trees shake bare fists and shout.
Time has come. And like strong steady wind.
Move. Or be moved along
Dear mom, dad, family, friends,
I’m writing to you from camp in the Appalachian mountains,
which is a sort of fancier way to say y’all’s backyard.
The counselors are great!
One ran through camp this morning buck naked, only wearing antlers.
Ran off more scared than hell. And the black bear cabin’s door broke loose,
because I’ve seen them hightailing all over. Skittish as squirrels
and black as night and round as all get out.
Which is what they always say to us to do.
Eggs and I are like a balanced breakfast.
We get along almost any time of day.
Though neither of us are too fond of bees.
But they sure enjoy a plate of over easies.
Drives her crazy. She tries to eat them.
Mom, dad, family, friends,
you’ll be happy to know the woods are full with good influences.
In fact every single one of my fellow campers puts all their toys away
when they’re done using them. I haven’t seen a thing get left behind.
We all have our backpacks and everyone of us has at least
one clump of pages or maybe even a whole book. We read.
Mile by mile. Words that define our day and set our pace
and lead us to good water and never to obey. Just play.
Take a chance. Like a dance. A single song. Won’t last long.
Water’s dry. Turn around. One foot in front of the other over dry ground.
Magic. We discovered a spell. Some element of walking mixed with carrying
mixed with sweat and dehydrated noodles and dingy water
and a bunch of other stuff too, moves you.
Across the earth. We are all exploring
the most experiential form
of moving one’s self
place to place.
Not the quickest. Or safest. Or best.
But the form of travel that produces the most experience.
Mom. Dad. Family. Dear Friends.
Thank you so much for helping
send Eggs and I to camp Out Here.
I really hope we get to come back next year.
Jeremiah and the Dirty Dozen
Milk drains out of the bowl. Leaving Buena Vista like soggy cereal lining the bottom. Two hiking spoons to stir it up just enough for one last bite of crunchless marshmallow stars. The endless drone of distant cars. Highway noise on top of cold mountain hot on rocks in the morning sun. More than a day. More than a chapter. More than words. A true adventure has begun. Bowl of cereal now cleaned out and empty. Farm rashes and Lincoln Log buildings. Toys. To eyes. On top of tall places. A meal all of its own type and accord, bright against our squinted faces. Two spoons sit dry, but ready. To mile by mile. And walk across breakfast.
Didn’t like it one bit. Stepped down onto that road, looked left at empty and alone, and right at four or five who look just like me. Man bun on one. Shirtless. A better man than me. In every way but ego. The littler one, did he know where to go, another mile and a half on top of seventeen, up the road. And I didn’t like that either. But he was right. And. He had his shirt on. I wanted to swim in Jennings Creek. I wanted to feel air on my skin and water dripping from my hair. I wanted the dog to swim in it, brown eyes forgiving me for every one of seventeen with her mile-wide smile. But that wasn’t our story. Not our hike. The dog just ate her last cup of food this morning. And there’s a box up this road full with the only food we’ll find. I have to be there by seven. So worried, I got there five minutes to five. Miles that don’t move you closer to home tire you out more, or at least they do me. Every step that takes me forward on the path that ends in Ashley is the lightest walking I’ve ever had to do. But coming here felt like respot. Like hostel. Hotel. Like not meant to be home. Intentionally not so. Free shampoo and massage bar soap. Not Ashley. Not New York. Not Tuck-E-Man and Eggasaurus Rex back together again. Some reprieve. Yes. Resupply of what I need. But I took a right. Where the trail turned left. A single day at Middle Creek would have done the work of a week. But it won’t bring me closer to home. I’ll walk my feet through to the bone. So long as it ends in Ashley.
You can’t always root somewhere. Sometimes it’s enough just to lay down a tent. Ground too full with rocks like a drink with too many ice cubes. Trees going at it with every sort and size of straw. Bark-wrapped and pale bald. Thigh size and spiderweb fingers feeling creek bottoms like raccoons for crawfish to crawl in. Taste the good water. Not the rain. Not a filthy river. The surface lake man dug and fake. But the vast veins of crystal blue flowing beneath us all. Feeding us. Like roots. Sure you see a spring or two where the mantle broke and blue is peeking through. But the good water is deep. Thousands of feet beneath our feet. All of us. Even the trees. Through rock and clay and deep down defiance. We may never reach it. The good water may not even exist. But the foundations that get laid just trying, all around, growing tangled, bumped up knees and elbows from underneath the floor of the tent. A good night among thirsty friends. All of us. Seeking better water. And though I cannot lay down a root, for all of theirs, I can taste it. In my imagination.
Click. Chuff. Scrape. Tap. The left. Right. Left. Tick tick tapping canines while deep grinding molars together. Tsh, through lips, slips, ugh drum.
Ugh drum. And a hum.
A hike is coming on strong right along.
Write alone. Up in the monster’s cove
when he should behave
and sleep like how tired he is.
Huh huh. And an ugh.
Snore like lions roar. Trick trick trick.
Dud thud drops a mouse on the shelf.
Being disgusting is its own form of stealth.
And no one can see where they don’t look.
Where a world of rodents gets left off the hook.
No one here fishes the shelters.
They’re there though.
Boo. Says the wind. Booo.
Says the bolted in ceiling.
Roof anchored down wears wind like a crown.
While foreign shores try to snatch it away.
This noise-chorus-full dark place we stay.
On top of a mountain.
Mount. Don’t know the name.
Overlooking Burke’s Garden.
Where God got booked in.
Gave over its thumbprint.
Just the same.
Mount. Sour Apples.
Or Sour Apple Pond.