Paint Brush and Lupine Near the Creek

ON THE THIRTIETH ANNIVERSARY OF ELVIS PRESLEY'S DEATH,

I UNDERSTAND HOW TO SAVE A LIFE

They arrived in a junky Ford at dawn:
The King is dead--how can we go on? Mid
August, a light rain lacquering the asphalt,
our wheels meandering to Bear Creek. As I slammed
the door shut, a tiny pine cone stung my face.
Chasing each other through dense brush,
down a steep slope to the stream, splashing
through rapids, sliding down stones, our
pants soaked--how easily we could have
broken our necks, but I kept up even though
they were two years older. (I had spent
ten years keeping up.) Wordlessly
picking sides, my buddy and I cornered
the catalyst of the battle, pelting him
with tiny cones, and when we ran out
of ammo, the enemy nailed us both
and careened away, vanishing in manzanita.
Minutes later, a stone crashed through
the canopy, thudding nearby. Another stone,
the size of a fist, hit the humus five
feet away. We screamed threats at them,
but rocks rained down as we raced up
the slope, the battle petering out
when we cornered them, my buddy
holding me back. We chirped with joy
all the way back to the car. Thirty years
to the day, it hit me as I woke up:
They must have known--in early May,
I had been caught naked in a car
and shamed by the police, my best friend
no longer allowed to see me. My father
had died in late May, but my friends
didn't mention that either.

So I returned to Bear Creek, the terrain
more treacherous than I remembered,
and struggled through dense brush to the first
boulders by the road, nothing beyond that familiar.
I hiked over fallen trees, broken branches,
until the slope dropped off abruptly, the creek
hundreds of feet below. As I thought about
turning back, I slipped on loose gravel and fell
flat on my face. Shocked by pain,
I felt weak, a little sick, the blood pounding
in my ears. I thought, if I passed out, I
might slide two hundred feet down the slope
onto the rocks below.
                                 C'mon, get up.
Shake it off, I told myself, because that
is what my friends would have yelled at me.
I stood up, legs wobbly, and struggled
up the hill to safer ground, almost
passing out before I plopped down
on a smooth stone. As I slumped,
I remembered how, once, when
I couldn't stand, they grabbed me
under the arms and pulled me up,
steadying me until I could lurch forward.
That, I muttered to myself,
is how you save a life.

Run wild on the path.
Open a door.
Open a closet door.