for my father


In this dream an old, lame man

climbs a steep hill

to sit on a rock

that’s half a rock

since the lower half fell on the road below

and nearly killed the lame old man

twenty years before.


“Size of a small cabin!”


So he sits on the rock

on the top of the hill and watches the road

and the river beyond it   and

his eyes move along all the

deer trails that run down his hill,

a filigree of lacey dust

made by delicate hooves,

each trail a marvel of economy,

a path to water carved brilliantly

in the river’s canyon.


From the top, it is easy for him to see

the trails deer make naturally,

without thinking, he thinks.

Or do they think?

Or are they too busy for thinking?

What does a deer think about thinking?


But the lame man’s trail is not a deer’s.

He looked and looked

and looked for it

and couldn’t find a trace

of his own trail up the hill.

Then he thought he might have seen a scuff or two

between the deer paths.

But was that really his trail?

Or some clumsy fawn’s?


No, his trail to the top left no track.

Nothing was carved in the hill to remind him

of himself.

If he had to rely on memory for existence

his life would be like raindrops on dust.


He’d left no more trail than a Redtail does,

and less than buzzards do

who repeat their circles

with practical intent.


©  Bill Hatch