Posted by: Mark Nielsen | February 15, 2013

Walking With Francesco In the Ashes – orig. poem by Mark Nielsen

Walking With Francesco In the Ashes      2-14-13

3/4 front view of a female snapping turtle (Ch...

3/4 front view of a female snapping turtle (Chelydra serpentina), taken near the St. Lawrence River in northern New York state. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Francesco, headless and lost,
(all heart, this one is)

wanders in the wilderness
but leads me right nevertheless,
to places I would not have gone–
maybe never even known–
on my own.

Blessed and battered, tried and tested
dust I am —
but… golden stardust.
And to dust I shall return
(kicking and screaming, no doubt).

I am monk number 34
in the cult of the snapping turtle.
I Am slow of foot,
perhaps slow of wit,
but watch out for my bite.

Calling number five.
Francesco?
Come in number five!
Access code 4 Switch, 2 Zero dash 1.
Do you read me?
My moss-covered phone says we are connected,
but you are not saying anything.
Or else I can’t hear you.
Yet I have followed you, and am lost now, too.

You sneak up behind me in the silence.
You tap my shoulder and giggle, telling me :

“Just because we take the road less-traveled,
doesn’t mean you’ve then got to go
off-roading into the middle of nowhere.”

“Stick to the foot path.
Walk, do not run.
It is the rare white man
who willingly walks to get where he is going.
The brown man, brown woman–
they do it all the time,
mile after plodding mile.
Many have no choice.
Yet learn the pace of the brown woman.
Humble thyself in the sight of the Lord.”

“Now slow down. Nooooooo, …slower.
Now stop.
Listen.
Feel the creeping cold.
(Feel your feelings. Do not run from them.)
When the trees wave in the breeze, wave back:
attentive oaks, naked and unashamed,
Ash trees afraid to live up to their names,
and dancing evergreens,
here to remind you
that every winter here ends in spring.”

“If you want, have a smoke.
Your own personal peace pipe.
(For medicinal use only)”

“Love the world —
this world,
not the one you wish existed,
but this one.
It is the same one your ancestors loved,
despite hardship,
cold, fires, waste.
Remember it is a world
that they traveled far to get to,
all for love.
For the love of you. Unborn. Waiting.
Be grateful.
Feel.
Remember those who are now
the dust and ash beneath your very feet.
Rise and walk, and learn to feel again.”

“But at the end of your journey,
be yourself, not one of them.
Look forward, not back.
Don’t look to see if anyone is following, either.
Look where you are going.”

“Be who you are, where you are, as you are.
Let the last word–
or at least your last word–
be hope.”

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

I think this one might find a second life soon as a spoken-word video slideshow, or even with music added, given the number of pictures I took at Waterfall Glen, the DuPage County Forest Preserve area in Darien, IL where the majority of the above poem was conceived and written. Coming soon to a YouTube or Vimeo near you…


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