The Way, by Mary Elyn Bahlert

If there was a path, I didn’t know it,
although I prayed for it to show itself, sometimes –
of course –
not knowing another way.
I took each step, afraid,
dead leaves crackling under me,
my heart, beating hard in my throat.
Sometimes I froze – did I stop too long? – I wonder now,
but I was alone, and sad, and so I needed to stop, sometimes.

If there was a path, the forest did not open its way for me,
as it has for others.
I was not given a map at birth, or a spoon, or even instructions
as to how to proceed.
I simply moved, because the years passed, and others moved:
I didn’t know what else to do.

I put one foot in front of the other and tried not to scream.
Sometimes, I held my breath, to hide the whimper in my throat.

I think of the others now.
Was the way easier for them? We don’t talk about it.
I think of the ones I left behind, images of me,
waving to them from the moving train, thinking I would see them again.
I did not.

Now you wonder why I gaze with sadness and delight at the trees,
the light flickering, days passing – so quickly,
why I think about those who are gone,
why I am grateful for my breath.

-Mary Elyn Bahlert, November 28, 2017