reading the barefoot path

This is one of the only poems I’ve written in the past four years – it feels like a deep breath, filling my head with poems again…

prosodic path


The trail scrolls beneath us.
It’s a punched paper ribbon
In a player piano,
Tines flicking fast into holes.

The trail spins ever beneath us.
It’s a studded cylinder
In a music box
Grinding tunes on a fork.
Braille studs and rock spikes,
Our feet recoil

Over sharps and flats both.
You keep your mouth closed.
It’s the first day of spring
but you’re thinking of
some other thing.
I wheel your ring round my finger.

Though this trail
Has been cranked and played
By lovelier legs than mine,
And my legs skip or, worse—
Sink into a groove,
Hand on hip, curses on lips
To rebuke you—
This song is all mine,
rising with my breath,
and the immeasurable cleft
tongue of my step.

The walk home is endless.
If I can just make it
to the next
Tree, curve, sign, bird.

Dividing the trail into 
“just the next’s”
Creates a text,
a measured verse,
Each rock a stress indenting
bare feet.

I choose my footing consciously,
apostrophe to apostrophe
root rock branch bramble.
I amble, I am, Iambic.
I am ambivalent, each foot
of a different mind.

Trochaic and dactylic meters are called falling meters because they go from stressed syllables to unstressed syllables. They wane. Walking in sand, my gait would slow. Iambic and anapestic meters are rising meters because they go from unstressed to stressed. They wax. Stepping on a rock would involve a rising meter: pain, shock.  There are many meters to go. 

The trail speaks to me.

Trochaic: The running meter.
I’m running—
Out of things to say
Low on energy
Home as fast as I can.

Dactylic: The finger.
Beckoning, “Come here.”
But your silence widens
The space between us.
Two rests follow my stress.

Anapestic: You strike back, cavalier.
My raised voice
Stands on end rending
your quiet.

Spondaic: A double dose of intonation,
This reincarnated fight marches
Right, left, right.

We’re left on a Pyrrhic stretch:
An absence of stress. The stones

we threw are behind us.


* The mythological character Pyrrha, along with Deucalion, repopulated the earth after an epic flood by throwing stones behind her back. Each stone became a new person, a new life, a new hope. The Pyrrhic meter has no stress. What’s done is done. Time to let the stones thrown into the anapestic and spondaic stanzas do what they will.

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