The Three Bridges Trail
There are walks I will want to take
in my last days, and one will be the Three Bridges Trail.
Find someone to lead me, if I am frail, through
the narrow path, across the three stone bridges.
But I will see, hear, smell for myself.
It is almost primeval, the brush to my knees, even
my chest: the thick leaves turning day to night
almost as soon as we set foot on the dust and gravel.
It is like stepping beyond the curtain, into the Emerald City.
The birds flutter and sing and one says “pur-dee, pur-dee, pur-dee,”
in a branch over my head.
At other times, a stillness: no animals, the wind cut off
by the thickness of leaves: it is almost German forest, medieval.
Over there, the clearing: can’t you picture a dozen furied
swords and axes clanging and cleaving, unmerciless battle?
But, then, my imagination runs beyond reach of the reins.
Walk with me, in the green and the cool.
Walk with me, on the ledge of the stone
of the bridges:
the fall is not far, if it comes to that,
and the undergrowth will catch you,
soft. Blanket of a crib.
Walk with me, when those last few days are near,
and think with me not of what life might have been,
but what it was — what it is: as real as the doe
in deep staredown with us, as real as the aroma of juniper.
Did we matter? Did we lift the lives of others?
Did we love, did we give enough time to the stars,
did we dream — or was it all mad?
Look at the butterflies, the gem-green beetle.
I will walk here again, in my last days,
the Three Bridges Trail:
whatever deeds define my life,
I know finding this place
is one of the good.
Dana Yost is the author of two published books, 2008's Grace, a collection of new poems; and 2010's The Right Place, a collection of essays and poems. His third book, A Higher Level: Life's Large Lessons From a Small College on the Prairie, a regional history book, will come out this fall from Ellis Press. He was an award-winning daily newspaper editor for 29 years at papers in the Upper Midwest. His poetry has appeared in a variety of journals and magazines, including Stymie Magazine, Awakenings Review, Open Minds Quarterly, Relief, Turtle Quarterly, Red Booth Review, Bare Root Review, the Crusader, South Dakota Magazine, Time of Singing, and Wolf Head Quarterly. He lives in Forest City, Iowa.