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M. Travis Lane
From: Fiddlehead, Spring 2001. Touch Earth (Guernica, 2006)

Walking the railroad-right-of-way
by Portobello Creek: in spring
among the squirrel-tail willows
thick with birds; in summer,
by beaded buckwheat vines,
wild rose, wild flag, anemones,
cow lilies like dogs' lost tennis balls,
and water meadows, rarely hayed—

Each spring the rain sorts out the sand:
links, hooks, spikes, lawn chairs,
general debris. The froggy ditches
fill with trash—a dead horse, once, its hooves
fox-gnawed, its head in a roll of carpeting.

Past the red quarry a hunter's path
leads down from the track-way to the bush—
a cabin barely visible. Was it his horse?
I saw it once, among the trees, white,
awkward, untethered, a shade in shades.

Floods have taken the bridge away.
Below the piers black water flows
with an unhurried violence.
On the other side
the white sand ridge of the right-of-way
moves crescent into the darknesses.

This fall we come again to watch
our shadows tremble in the creek
among the floating, tarnished leaves.
The meadows have bleached, dissolved in mists.
Winter to come: the snow, the ice
stacked up against the reeds
with slanting, cracked, and rattling panes,
and, at our usual halting place,
the water, running.

Next winter, will we come so far? The brittle trees,
spruce with their browning needles, stars
glimpsed through the metal-speckled nights,
the snow, the rabbits' dash to ground,
the browning soot of cat-tails—all
seem much or more or less the same
each year, though our
reflections on that mirror flow
grow feebler, fade.

I see you as you used to be: thigh deep in brush,
retracing the old buggy paths, lost trails
for moccasin or fox— you read them
on the clambered earth, crisscross
beneath the loggers' ruts, or the hive-mound
logs left out to rot. Now
even this razed and graveled way
seems long, its end unreachable.
Will we walk to that broken bridge again,
or, dreaming, find it whole?

M. Travis Lane's works copyright © to the author.

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