Shenandoah

That afternoon we lost our way on the Appalachian Trail:
December, and an inexplicable wind had picked up,
morphing chipped leaves into funnel and cloud,
sucking the path skyward, sending scraps of fall into our eyes.
How we rubbed to clear them, tearing up as we walked,
racing sunset back to the parking lot.
You don't want to drive in that kind of dark.
The hills will swallow you whole,
glasses and high beams and all.
That's how the conversation turned morbid,
you remembering our mother,
me remembering every pet that had ever passed,
talk of falling off mountains,
both of us catching ourselves on walking sticks
as we tripped on rocks frequently traveled.
It wasn't like we had hiked for miles.
It wasn't like we'd passed into other states,
overshot some critical split or blaze. No,
there stood stone posts, steel placards,
etchings and arrows to guide us,
making the journey more obvious.
But all that dead foliage rising.
Amazing those things we let blind us.
Amazing we made it back.

-Katherine Gotthardt

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