Leave No Trace

There was no going forward, only going 
back. Sudden warmth making for sudden 
thaw and the fenced lawn of one privacy 

turning away another. Plum-brown mud 
everywhere. Spring, in its base shapelessness, 
stared up with its eyeless face. The trail 

one long bed filled with the isolate sleep 
and unclaimed green of the living. 
I walked looking down. Slanting skylight.

Glaze of sundown. Read over the unlettering 
of fall and winter on the ground. The surely-
seen-before bramble, beech, and spring 

peepers in a black pool, unrecognizable—my eyes
lost in a causeless mood of anonymous dread 
or fixed inert on deep, animal wrong.

Soft pant. Intemperate blood. My feet 
followed the trail but my breath some permeable 
danger like a slight crack in the atmosphere 

nowhere visible but everywhere felt 
with a sureness only the premise of a mood 
verifies—the crack spidering and spidering 

to a crest that ends exactly here: an eastless
orient, the strangeness of my own hands,
this softness without center. Whatever had just

tunneled through reflection, oiled now 
in concealment or leafing its way up 
a tree’s distraction. The many branching parts 

of its sentence falling to pine needles and maple seeds. 
I look up at the familiar landmark 
of two bodies and know where I am. One 

is pointing to a hairy woodpecker and the other 
stands in a pocket of warm air, owl-spying 
between two pine trees. His field glasses

scan the bark for whitewash and find instead
feet belonging to our youngest. 
The fawn brown length of him balanced 

in harrier-high triumph on a bare rung of pine. 
His look-at-me daring hid, but the irreverent giggle
clear and distinct. My chest apples. A looseness 

like water in the knees. All my powers
foxed awake to the nothing they can do. 
Tree limbs rub and moan. High-pitched trill 

of a yellow-rumped warbler. Perilous calm: 
beauty, in which anything could shatter, and then 
nothing does. The rural instinct in his legs 

quickly makes its way down, and he’s off
to the trailhead, leaving us behind to exhale 
the swiftness of his going as all over us 

moves a random, mild-rambling air. 

Supritha Rajan is presently an associate professor of English at the University of Rochester. Her poetry has been awarded Poetry Northwest’s Richard Hugo Prize and nominated for Pushcart Prizes. Her poems have been published, or are forthcoming, in such journals as New England Review, Gulf Coast, Literary Imagination, New American Writing, Bennington Review, Conjunctions (online), Washington Square Review, Colorado Review, Poetry Northwest, Antioch Review, and elsewhere.