In a dark time, the eye begins to see.
— Theodore Roethke
Shallow breath is winter’s way of breathing; I am double-masked walking in the woods, with fogged glasses; dressed in black, pushing my stick ahead of the mud that will hold my weight’s impression like wide tire tracks from a monster truck. I jump over the rut I’m in.
I stick it. Landing, somehow, on two feet, with my arms outstretched, mimicking a crow’s balance. In that slippery second, I could be a compass needle, swooning in every wrong direction, taking a slight dip to my knees; then righting myself with such an effort that a mourning dove, hidden in the crown of a white pine, begins to croon: alone, alone, alone.
And, I am— alone in the shelter of this exercise— alone in this woods that once housed a CCC/ POW camp, and I look around at the map of buildings uncovered—the broken slabs of concrete that mark the latrine, which once had running hot water, or the Medina stone footing of the guard’s watchtower, or barracks that kept men, who planted trees and worked on local farms, from running into the dark. I look over my shoulder at the slightest sound of wind, or twig snap, and there is no one here besides the ghost of me walking among the ruins that nature had reclaimed long ago, when no one was looking.
Poem by M.J. Iuppa
M.J. Iuppa is the Director of the Visual and Performing Arts Minor Program and Lecturer in Creative Writing at St. John Fisher College; and since 2000 to present, is a part time lecturer in Creative Writing at The College at Brockport. Since 1986, she has been a teaching artist, working with students, K-12, in Rochester, NY, and surrounding area. Most recently, she was awarded the New York State Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Adjunct Teaching, 2017. She has four full length poetry collections, This Thirst (Kelsay Books, 2017), Small Worlds Floating (2016) as well as Within Reach (2010) both from Cherry Grove Collections; Night Traveler (Foothills Publishing, 2003); and 5 chapbooks. She lives on a small farm in Hamlin NY.. Check out her blog: mjiuppa.blogspot.com for her musings on writing, sustainability & life’s stew.