Lydia Swartz

August 28th, 2000 — St. Louis
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Morning Hike

‘Higher,’ the swaying beech leaves beckon, whispering drunken enticements into
the humid morning air.

‘Come higher. Come to us!

Leave earth behind,
weight behind
yourself behind.

Come higher!’

Arousing my senses
From within the fog-enshrouded,
opalescent trees
Is the aroma of a drug I cannot refuse.

My flight is borne by the slumping crags,
Their garments of moss skidding beneath
Me as I ascend
Heavenward.

Will I arrive in heaven or “heaven”?
Minuscule factors — the grip of one hand, tread of one boot, tilt of one stone —
Will determine
My side of fate.

Drunken trees make no pacts.

Then, suspended by the arms of the morning
And God Himself
I discover my lungs have space to fill themselves.
And here at last, after scraping against death with the shreds of my fingernails
I find that I want to live.

But the journey down is through the swaying leaves of drunken trees, and I know they’ve made no pact.
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