As we pause to admire the dung beetles, dark and glistening,
rolling all over each other on the fresh horse droppings
here in the middle of the trail on this glorious afternoon,
my niece’s face glows with delight. We’re crouched
between all the ripe joy playing out beneath our noses
and the disgusted look wrinkling her older brother’s face.
Poor middle child, he can’t stoop to look at such delight
any more. He’s fourteen. It’s late in the day, late summer,
when the light always seems to escape before one notices.
We’re taking the loop back toward our car, my brother
and his wife and my wife walking together, being adults,
my eldest nephew home from college scouting about
with his little sister and me while their brother disdains
either group. When we arrive back at the tunnel—
twelve hundred feet cut through the mountain for
the road to nowhere, now a stone canvas for graffiti
that blossoms at the entrance and then peters out where
light fails to reach the middle, the part where in either
direction the outside world is only a dim half-sun—
I find myself falling behind, partly from reluctance
to leave and partly to watch my little brother, our lovely
wives, these dear children. All that sappy happiness
is a little stifling, so I linger to breathe in the frisson
brought by draughts of sweet chill air and darkness,
to watch their silhouettes move slowly away, to
listen to their laughter ripple along the stone. Then
I realize—right on cue—that this is the opening scene
of the horror movie, where I will be victim number one,
crazy uncle suddenly gone as they call back into the dark
Come on, David! Quit fooling around. We need to go!
but hear only the echoes of their voices fading away.
I exhale slowly—easy, now—close my eyes, and wait.
From Slow of Study (Main Street Rag Publishing, 2015).
This poem first appeared in Iodine Poetry Journal (Spring/Summer 2015).
Used here with the author’s permission.