Steve McEllistrem

The Devereaux Dilemma

Along the Path

Which begins at the edge of the parking lot

Easing me into wilderness

Conveying me from almost prairie

Into something like wooded seclusion

Where I’m surrounded by oak and ash and maple

sunlight dappling the ground

Viceroys commingling with grasshoppers

Flowers of yellow and purple and white

Spread into my path and merge with my thoughts

Compelling me to notice them

While the temperature drops ten degrees

The humidity rising

And the glandular trichomes spray out

Esters and ethers, terpenes and carbonyls

Aerosols that fly hundreds of miles

Or at least as far as their neighbors

Communicating chemically

Far above my puny understanding

Warning each other of intruders and enemies

Yet unable to adapt to the greatest threat of all

Sitting yonder at the edge of the parking lot

Where I now exit the trail

And spot the newfoundland nosing its way around the corner

Looking for the briefest of flashes like a bear

Until my brain recognizes the gentle giant

Connected by a leash to its owner

And my heart returns to its normal rhythm

I step toward my car

Not far from the yellow beasts that await their orders

The name upon their sides suggesting innocence

Invoking images of butterflies and milkweed

For the last time I depart this haven

Spending one final glance through my rearview mirror

At the Caterpillars.

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