Beyond the Treeline
This was my horizon as a boy,
the farm in front of my grandfather’s house,
a long lane running towards the road
and beyond that, another farm.
I spent my summers there,
farmland in front of me,
woods and swampland behind me.
And even then, I wanted to travel beyond the treelines.
When I was six, I got a bicycle for my birthday,
second-hand red, it was a kind of magic
that did not know boundaries.
I rode it every day, out of sight, far further
than I was allowed, almost from the first.
A habit that continued as I aged
to newer, taller bikes, to ancient cars
in need of Bondo, but able to carry me
further than I was allowed. Horizons,
I came to believe were places to go,
not things to watch. Places to see,
new places, some of them peaceful,
some of them absurd or dangerous.
When I was fifteen, I went to New York City
and was dropped in the subway as if I had a clue.
I obviously did not, ending up
in Spanish Harlem, a place so exotic
I wanted to stay forever. My traveling companion,
perhaps having more sense than his lilly white friend,
dragged me back down, to a new train
and a more familiar landscape. It was two years
before, traveling alone, I went back.
The back streets of Chinatown, Belize, Munich.
I often found myself lost in cities
and horizons where I was hopelessly
not of those places. And yet, blind and naive,
I always felt absurdly safe.
I wasn’t of course, but somehow I was ignored.
It was like I was invisible. Whether I walked
of sat on sidewalks or riverbanks,
barefoot in Bath eating french fries in the teahouse,
I was allowed to simply be
curious, always curious
of what was next, beyond the treeline.
About this poem
The picture is from what was my Grandfather’s farm in Surry County Virginia. I often spent parts or all of my summers there.
I really did get a second-hand bicycle for my sixth birthday. It changed my life.
Most of the rest is true as well, but greatly abbreviated. We are our stories.
I am not as naive now, So I have to be braver. I liked being naive more.