Poppies on the Slope


I galloped along a trail
without any sense of direction,
the forest suddenly silent
after my friends
scattered. I knew
they were hiding
somewhere, hoping
I would panic. His father
dead from cancer at forty,
Alan had emerged, wild
and fearless, as our leader--
always at war. He,
somewhere, was laughing
at me. One night,
we had followed him
on a raid of a rival
scout troop, and at his
bidding, I had pounced
on a pup tent,
flailing with my fists
on the boys inside
until they were quiet.
Then we trotted off
and crouched in the grass,
until Alan, without
warning, called out
the other troop. As they
dashed toward us
in total darkness,
Alan swung a long chain
over his head--and if I
had not blurted out
a warning, they would not
have backed off
in time. Alan recently
had gotten his hands
on a bottle of 151 rum
and soda, mixing
the liquids in a cup;
at his command,
three times I guzzled
fire. Then we pedaled
to Alanís house to play cards,
my head reeling in
half an hour. I soon
passed out, throwing up
all over the table. They
dragged me to the park
and made me jog back
and forth--even though
I kept collapsing. I was
half-dead for three whole days.
Once I also followed Alan
into a cave; he turned off
the flashlight and ditched me
in complete darkness--I only
inched my way out
by feeling my way along
the cold stone walls.
Lost in the forest, I once again
cursed Alan, but I sensed
that he had a strange need
To make each one of us feel
vulnerable and alone
even as he demanded
that we always join him
in his interminable battles
against the world. I,
strangely, didn't feel alone
as I brushed the rough bark
of an oak and the delicate petals
of lupine and poppies.
I was totally worn out
by the time I, purely
by chance, stepped out
of the forest at the point
where they were throwing
rocks at the river. As we
rode home, I had a premonition
that I too would lose my father
soon. I tried to dismiss
the thought, but it stayed
with me for a twenty
terrible minutes as we wound
down the mountain side,
and I knew it was out
of my control. I would be lost,
completely alone, and maybe
I would remain that way for the rest
of my life, and no matter what I did
or how hard I tried, nobody would
understand my loss. As the car
wove down the hill, the feeling
slowly subsided, and I forgot
as I gazed out the window
at the brilliant flesh
of flowers on the slopes.

Take a scary path.
Gaze at the dawn.
Meet a queen.