The dead walk in silence
along well-worn paths
beaten down by shoe leather, bare feet,
and hobnail boots.
Or the whisper of a moccasin.
Their passing disturbs not the nodding goldenrod
blooming in the high pasture,
nor the Amur honeysuckle
unknown to them.
They whisper right through the branches.
The mill, long silent, booms for them.
Gallons of water pour out into Howard’s Creek
and sequins the horsemint crushed by my passing.
I reach for a branch,
smooth worn with use,
to pull myself up a particularly steep spot.
And hands reach with me.
A small grubby hand,
callused, worn, smooth, black, white, red.
And together we pull ourselves up that bank.
I am a woman of fifty-five years,
strong from work.
Yet I feel the hair rise on the back of my arms.
And I thank God that I am not like my mother,
who, with her strange eyes, sees what is not, but was.
I hurry toward my Old Gray Mare, my cell phone and life.
The past is too close for me.
By Debbie Barnes
Composed after a solitary hike on the John Holder Trail.