Cynthia Anderson lives in the Mojave Desert near Joshua Tree National Park. Her poems have appeared in journals such as Verse Virtual, Spillway, Crab Creek Review, San Pedro River Review, Mojave River Review, The Coil, and Split Rock Review. Her work has been nominated for Best of the Net and the Pushcart Prize. She is the author of nine poetry collections and co-editor of the anthology A Bird Black As the Sun: California Poets on Crows & Ravens. www.cynthiaandersonpoet.com
Those were the good years, sighed my mother—
when my brother and I were in grade school
and we went on weekend outings with my father,
hiking the Connecticut woods. Bright blazes—
red, blue, yellow—led the way, though
often enough they petered out, leaving us
to wander until we found the next marker.
That’s nearly all I recall from those hikes—
losing the trail, finding it, then losing it again.
The low hills grew so thick with trees,
there was hardly a horizon or vista—
just leaves and branches, squirrels
and jays, lichen-covered rocks and
poison ivy—and us, with our peanut
butter sandwiches and oranges,
unsure in a foreign world.
Dad’s owned the hardback
for decades, and now he’s cracked
it again, reading the entire tome
for the fourth time—finding
comfort in the slow pace,
the familiar story and characters,
the foreignness of India—a way
to forget the catheter, the full bag
of urine slumped on the floor,
the slow decline on hospice.
He’s engulfed by the recliner,
a distant look in his eyes.
It helps to repeat what’s come
before, and to hear clatter
from the kitchen next door,
happy voices that carry
no hurtful memories.
Blink, and he’s a toddler
in a sailor suit, solitary,
aching for friends
he never had.