We head out on the path. Red rock rises on one side.
Air gapes on the other. Disequilibrium can paralyze
if you stop to think.
Twisted cypress, tenacious bastions cling cliffside.
Bursts of wildflower — violet vervain, orange mallow —
sidle prickly pear, palmetto. I envy their deep, efficient roots.
Red dust interrupted by angled pale stone slabs, My feet search
for flat ground. Pause and look. A safer path is there. I am not
the first coward to traverse this route.
Loose rock skitters behind. Heart stops, so easy to lose
footing, such a long way to fall. Layers chiseled — a cathedral,
giant bell, chimneys, fingers, ghosts.
My boys forge ahead, the oldest a pied piper for the younger two.
All of them young men now, or close. They will be fine, they will be fine, on repeat as I imagine
missteps, tumbles, cries for help unheard, never mind the cell phone
in the pied piper’s pocket. Let them have their adventure,
while I have my own, slower paced. At the end
of the loop, feet and calves coated in red dust, I cross into the lot,
pull shut the metal gate that keeps deer off the runway. How like us,
those deer, running blindly toward death each minute.
Jennifer Hernandez teaches and writes in the Minneapolis area. Her work has appeared recently in Mothers Always Write, riverbabble, Rose Red Review and anthologized in Bird Float, Tree Song (Silverton Books) and A Prince Tribute (Yellow Chair Press). She has performed her poetry at a non-profit garage, a bike shop filled with taxidermy and in the kitchen for her children, who are probably her toughest audience.