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The Old Right of Way

This poem originally ran in the May/June 2006 edition of Grub Street Grackle.

This poem originally ran in the May/June 2006 edition of Grub Street Grackle.

The sense that I might die
before I can explain,
to myself even, why
my time-enveloped brain
has seemed, at times, in friendship with the dead—

as though a living hand
had pushed aside the folds
of history, like sand,
to offer me a hold
on what it is to press always ahead—

has stopped me, dizzy, in
my tracks, and made me sit
here in this path that’s been
a walking trail since it
stopped bearing trains so many years ago—

so many years that now
the trees arch clear across,
and hide from walkers how
the way they’ve yet to pass
still runs as straight as rails used to, and so

refresh with each fresh step
the view that constantly
stirs hope in greater depth
that some long mystery
will soon come clearly into perfect sight,

until the path arrives
at that old bridge that binds
two banks with wood, and strives
to make the creek that winds
one with the way that knows no left or right;

it was while sitting there,
where once was never peace,
but only speeding care
and commerce with the east,
where now we go for solitude and rest,

that last I thought I knew
a presence from time past,
coming to greet me through
a measured line whose cast
risked unknown deeps to catch my interest.

But what is there to show
for such experience?
Now that I’ve turned to go
back home, the difference
between sensing and understanding lies

ahead, along the same
Rock Island Railroad bed
that was the way I came
to find the bridge, now hid
again behind and not before my eyes.

Yet not for sitting still
and wishing I could be
on both ends of the trail
will time defer to me.
Let me be up and going where I go;

If what was there to find
is worth finding again,
it’s worth leaving behind
in memory’s wild fen,
where wisdom, hope, desire, and patience grow.

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The Grackle is a production of the 501(c)(3) nonprofit Imagine Dallas Literary Arts, Inc.