Lost - Poem by Jan Bloomstein
On the trail that I walk with my mother,
I look down at small sneakers, faded red to pink,
Jumping on swatches of sun-patched moss
That dance in lock-step with a canopy
Of wind-shifting leaves.
We entered at the shelf of rock that marks the gape between
The spikes of white pine and poplar.
She keeps a measured pace behind me,
And, to bolster my five-year-old courage,
Every fourth step (hop) I turn to catch her eye.
I go for broke and decide to turn every sixth step,
'You waited to long, ' Panic teases.
At my next turn she stops and tears the cross-stitched apron from her bosom;
A jerked, startled motion that seeps a small triumph.
Softly, lovingly, the garment is laid over the laurel branches
That frame the trail before the unwieldy
Hemlocks take over up ahead.
It's no surprise when the cloth begins to melt
In a conflagration that's both sudden and expected.
The shining leaves (plucked earlier as play money for my pockets)
Shrink ashen from the heat and rise up like spiraling grey doves,
Given to flight or atonement.
My face crumples. No longer am I the Indian Squaw -
Her tribal blood burning fierce in my veins -
Striding artfully over rocks and last year's skid of leaves,
Far too skilled to slip.
I'm simply five.
And as I turn to look to the Hemlocks
For assurance that some things remain in proper order,
The trail has grown dark under a starless, moonless pall.
Before I turn back I know she's gone - never existed, even.
And who am I to be faulted, just a five-year-old after all,
For walking a moonless trail alone at night,
Searching for an ephemeral presence
That may be my mother?
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