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for Rob Allen, in memoriam

Trails branch into other trails.

One leads through open meadow
to an isolated hut
where no one lives but the wind and his companion.

Another brings you by spiral loops
to a bare plateau
from which, adjusting your backpack
to collaborate with gravity and keep you from falling,
you observe far below
the seams and crusted tailings
of an abandoned coal mine.

A third winds through hardwood temples,
sugar maples, ash, birch and beech,
cold and marmoreal,
toward Beinn Alasdair Bhain
and the festival of the dead.

These are the trails whose meanderings you followed,
these the destinations.

Turning one last time toward the sun—
another world beckons,
highlands, coastal ripraps, deckled shores and beaches,
a secluded copse, dense second growth
patrolled by moose, deer, a comical black bear
lurching toward the cave entrance
and her waiting brood,
a serenity of ponies bending over the salt lick—
you see in valediction
a little Encantada of the commonplace.

That's where you would have liked to go now
but trails branch into other trails
leading everywhere but there.

David Solway

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