Coast Trail

for Fred and Betty Crews

You should know that a little way
ahead of you on the trail
there is a dead man

The wife and daughter
are waiting for the helicopter to come
or maybe horses

They are not in need
and the best thing
is not to disturb them

said the hiker
and we continued south
still watching out for sea lions

naming the aromatic plants
to avoid both speech and silence
the more stilted our words became

the more one had a sense
they were being recorded
until it was with relief

to see the woman’s white hat
just over the gentle grade
the kind of innocent sunhat

I wore when I was seven
in fields of asters like this one
she and her daughter staring

up at the severe hillcrest
not at the sunlit blue sea behind them
with its frilly white waves

not at the slack body
in its store-new shirt and levis
the jaunty cloth cap covering

all but a strip of the
abalone-grey neck
our clumsy boots swerved

off the trail to avoid
as we pretended
we had somewhere else

to get to

From: Crossing Borders, New Directions, 1994.

Posted: Tue 29 Dec, 2009