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Off the path.

Down the slope from the rusted footbridge A car passes under, I hear the yelp and howl Of stray dogs, the gravel shifting beneath my boots, The clank of keys buried in the layers Of my heavy clothes, and for a distance The clatter of a 19th century army, Blue or Grey, intermontane and bivouacked -- Low fires curling up from the camp. I walk down, as in uniform, toward the creek, A mile on before darkness. Drops of rain Pay their toll to me and to the soaked terrain. Mist gathers thick in the bare branches. We sleep on our arms, and it is said, "Let the dead bury the dead." By this, too many Have been taken care of. But resilience Survives the worm-worked soil. With grief At our heels, grief hidden at the elbows Of forward observers, only the mournful Bugle eases us, our stay warmed by the steam Of wet embers. When the rain falls back Snow melts in each footprint, each a wound Punched down to the red clay. I cross the creek And like smoke at a certain height, The campaign disappears. A late breeze rallies An entire tree of dead leaves. Their crispness sizzles, Unconsumed by the November frost -- A reassurance that spites the season.
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Author:Brasfield, James
Publication:Chicago Review
Date:Jun 22, 1988
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