I Take a Hike

The world appears to be tipping sideways

since the election. Some say it must break

to be set right. I, for one, am frightened.

If and when it tips, who will be broken?

Cut open?

 

All of this hums like the refrigerator.

I hear it when everything else quiets like

four a.m., realizing though, that it buzzes

under everything

all day long.

 

We keep doing life, what else should we do?

The bills will still come due. It still feels good

to wash my hair.

 

On my day off, I take a hike,

talking to strangers, discovering wild

and dangerous mushrooms after the recent rain.

Paula says that mushrooms and spiders

hold the world together.

This makes me love her.

 

Death angels, like ghostly tulips, haunt the groves

of second growth redwoods. They grow in rings

like the trees, which are clones of felled giants.

Some things come back.

 

I meet an elderly couple and their elderly dog,

a blue merle with blue cataracts and a limpy gait.

She loves me instantly, as only dogs can. I love her too

and tell the couple how glad I am to spend time with her

since at home, there are only cats

who are terribly demanding

and give the worst presents.

 

The woman agrees, then confesses her grief.

Her cat, who slept in the curve of her neck,

died after seventeen years together.

She tears up when she tells me,

and so do I. We hug with our eyes,

an impromptu support group

for the bereaved.

 

I decide to try the upper trail. Suddenly, I need

to be in better shape. I felt this way after 9-11,

wanting to know I could run as far as those

pre-school teachers,

with a child in my arms.

 

I get a little lost, going farther and higher

than I thought I could. I will pay for it tomorrow,

but today I feel stronger. Today I feel loved

by the musty earth, the softness of pine needles

decomposing beneath my feet, the squeals

of children down a ways, a beacon,

beckoning me back to the paved path,

the road I know.

 

My lungs full of oxygen, my bra soaked with sweat

my thoughts quieter, for now, I head home

to the hot shower that awaits me.

How lucky I still am.

I get to wash my hair.

Julie Levin is a graduate of JFKU’s Counseling Psychology program. This original work was shared in the John F. Kennedy University Poetry Reading celebrating National Poetry Month in April.