On Friday I hiked the portion of North Carolina’s Mountains to Sea Trail that runs along the Eno River, about nine miles from Roxboro Road in Durham through West Point on the Eno Park, across Guess Road into the Eno River State Park, and then to Pleasant Green in Orange County. One day, when the trail is complete, I hope to hike the whole state. For the moment, this will have to do.
These are my snapsnots from the walk.
The rains part like a curtain; the underbrush
Stirs with sultry buzz and hum. Summer?
Goose on the river watches my confusion:
Which way the trail? Which hue the blaze?
He’s not telling.
I sit and rest by spring’s last bluets,
Pale and drooping in the summer heat.
The sycamore leans out over the river,
Stretched root to branch like a diver ready to leap,
Stripping his bark as he goes.
Swallowtails loop around the weeds
In search of some forgotten nectar,
While laurel clings to rocks above.
Two dozen turtles and a vizsla.
Through the reeds and under the bridge, like a rat
Go I, while grimly rusted girders form
A cathedral’s arch alive with darting swallows.
A hundred feet away, civilization
Roars along wherever in hell it’s going —
Tremendous racket, but it’s my boots in the brush
That spook the deer.
Atop the bridge, the wide-flung view of eagles
Or vultures. What was distinct, unique, has now become
Generic. The rat has a better view.
Damp and stinking he emerges
Blinking in the light of day and the city.
Unimpressed. He goes back down.
An ancient millstone, come to earth
Retiring useless by a crumbling chimney,
Ground to ground instead of grinding.
No! Not useless yet: A snake uncoils
From broken mortar, black against the stone
In hope of sun. –The rat hastens on.
The cool brown canvas of the forest floor
Beset by gray stone, white branch, orange straw,
Rampaged upon by myriad greens, and here
Alone and still, electric blue? That shade
Does not belong. –Cool Ranch Doritos.
Another chimney, neatly bricked its hearth,
In a care-set stone foundation now beseiged
By moss. The living room of ghosts.
A red-shouldered hawk spreads light-barred wings
In sweeping sun and soars into the trees
–Rodent dangling. Relax, friend:
I brought my own lunch.
Lunch, sheltered by ironwoods and nostalgia:
Raisin bread, summer sausage, an apple.
A sandpiper snags a water strider, and boasts.
Perched on the remnants of ruined lives,
Confronted by vistas I cannot reach:
An ordinary day, plus crumbling bricks.
Three rocks perched upon a log
As if a sign to point my way
To wisdom! From some lost civilization.
–Or aliens! Or just a child
At play in the woods. For play at times
Can look like wisdom. Don’t be fooled.
The stream, ever conformist, races
Over rocks and ridges to join its brethren.
Deer bound naked through the wood
And crash into the stream.
By two o’clock, I envy them.
(Actually, for all who pass
This way, I might, and not be crass.)
My pants! My pants are falling down.
It’s not so late; have I lost weight
Already? Or are they just sweaty?
The sun well past its zenith, the breeze and birds have stilled.
Only I and the midges keep going.
Danger! Danger! This way lie
Cliffs and rocks and thorns too!
If you go on you’ll surely die!
Don’t say we didn’t warn you!
Bodyless, the heads of boys like buoys bob
Upon the greening water.
The day at last has dwindled
Into muddy ripples, an anticlimax
But soothing to the feet.