Stumbling along in the twilight
still wet from the fear that
this path will end
in the same place the old one
ended, he understands
that it’s out of his hands now,
as this downhill trail
has become steep enough
to keep him from turning back.
Behind him were boulders the size
of mansions which he’d had to slide down
and cliffs just high enough to jump from
without dying, though the landing
had sent a shock up his legs to his chest.
He’d never get back up again.
Here it flattens out a bit
but the roots of big pines
ridge the packed dirt underfoot.
Owl calls in the trees. The birds themselves
unseen. Twigs cracking twenty paces
off the path, in the moonless dark.
Ahead is the thunder of the river
cutting the bottom of the valley.
It’ll lead him out if it doesn’t kill him.
He strips off everything but the shoes
and runs faster. The plunge ahead
will freeze him but it’s all that’s left to do.
There will be no need for modesty if he comes out alive
and if he dies, he won’t care about how it looks
when they find his body. He’ll end up
as a story of folly
for the ones who might come after.
Only he will have known
how it feels
to hit the water running. To forget
failure and success. To fall
into the impersonal night and become
one small part of the Whole.
To chill down as he smashes
along in the current, the pain fading.
To see the stars as he goes blind.
To be alive at last.