Walking with Children

by Sarah D’Stair

Artwork by Alexa Gaffaney

“I am trying to get at something utterly heartbroken.”
— – Vincent Van Gogh to his brother Theo,
c/o Annie Dillard

One must draw out the poetry.
One must sketch it with chalk on the long, lonely blacktop.

First, the path. It is bridled
with bugs. A story ensues. Two bugs
were stuck together. It was an ant
carrying his dead friend
like a crumb of fallen bread.
(I am informed that ants die, too.)
This one was helping his friend
back to life.

Second, the spider. Her web spans
the footbridged brook.
One must direct the gaze into
empty space to find it. Not into the water,
but above it.
An optical abstraction.
The web is found, sun-glimpsed,
The mystery: how did she propel
that first strand
across the water?
It is a genesis question.
I cannot answer.

We continue. We see two ducks
standing motionless
along the path.
(He, pleased, corrects me –
not ducks. Geese.)
On approach, our bodies
crouch a little,
gaits tiptoe with respect.
Shh…we say.
The mysteries, we say to each other,
accumulate along this path. Still,
the geese do not move.
A little closer.
I see first, then he, that after all
they are not alive.
And that mystery is solved.
Someone has placed stone
geese in live action poses
along this footpath.
The deeper puzzle: Why?

And now the walk is long.
The path is long.
I am curious where it ends.
He is not.
He finds a stick to pass the time.
We fall into silence.

The pavement ends, and we follow
a narrow dirt trail
deeper into the woods.
I am asked if the birds mind
us being here.

Just after, the path forks into three.
I choose a way for us.
He says, “We’re lost, in an outside tunnel.”

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