Before, and After
Far in the woods, far enough
that no sounds of civilization intrude,
Your legs ache,
that dull ache of too many miles
as you walk, almost lost, but never quite,
traveling paths you traveled as a young man,
and now returning, not to revisit or reclaim,
but simply to rest.
It is midday and the sun is bright among the cypress.
Wind ruffles the water.
The wildlife has fled, leaving you alone with your thoughts.
It is not full circle, coming back to this place.
It is not a step backward, for you are a man
who looks neither too far forward or too far back,
This moment has nothing to do with the hours, the days
you have spent here before.
It is simply a gathering of peace, of strength.
A leaf falls into the black water.
It lands silently, considerate
of your reverie. Time stops.
Slowly your empty your mind.
Slowly, you fill your heart.
Slowly you become again, yourself untainted
by the world outside.
for a man of your flaws, sins, and sinkings.
A chipmunk rustles through the pine needles,
looks you up and down, and deciding you are harmless,
The sun begins to sink. It will be time to leave again,
but this, this stopping, is as much a part of the journey
as the million steps before, and after.
About this poem
The picture was taken at the Mill Pond in the woods behind what was once my grandparents’ house. I have written of it many times as a holy place of peace.