Underfoot (2006)

Marks were left in the snow.

Sound ricocheted from tree to tree, echoing on into changing noises from far away. Once it started, no one knew where it came from. Like vines that coil and slither around every tall place of memory and bend they touch everything with sounds.

Eyes, with acceleration grew stiff and painful with cold. But that did not stop the motion, continuing, destined, destined. The snow is a traitor.

Other creatures are avoiding, leaping into higher branches looking down, suddenly attentive. How long have they seen the course traced like an artery in the forest, life surging, pulsing downhill; pressure? Time and time again.

How they cackle; their moans and whimpers and cries sting the ears like frostbite! All around, no direction to be discerned. Coming from everywhere and nowhere: fear makes the heart burn with a mad-fire faster than wings.

Everyone stops to watch the thing already seen. Knowing and telling the tale before it’s told. Breathing and hungry lungs ripping the silence. Eyes above. Running like a panic steel-cold pellets deep in the flesh screaming faster now!

The feet keep moving, moving with calculated motion, muscles flexing, contracting, springing ahead again again. Little nose burning with jagged ice tearing at every drink of cold clear future.

Streaking like the sun in shattered clouds shining bright with life. Little cinders burn and crackle when air runs over them.

Don’t look back! Back is the trick where all hope is lost!

It would be doom. Witnesses always tell the tale much greater, embellishments or not, it was still the wrong thing to do. Fear had posed the dare, but it would not be taken.

Everyone was watching.

Riding high, running with the spirits and the wind and the spirits of the wind and the hands that cradle and lift into the sky push along tired shoulders the way the Hawks fly.

Swerving; each placement and then the next perfect, everyone knew the path but even that could be tricky, unless; knowing just where to put every step along the way.

Grip.

Trunk.

Cough.

Dirt.

Snow.

Back.

And  moving.

Couldn’t help it.

Got scared.

Still going though, didn’t think about the rest. Little scary things went creepy creepy into still calm waters: thoughts in concentration: hiding. Now everything had ripples, what if what if?

Now there was doubt.

Alarm alarm!

The birds in the trees let the whole world know what it already knew if it listened.

Sounds underfoot went a long way in the ground. The birds could never understand that.

Broken hollow, or other empty space? They went zooming by. Chances. No, no. The changing breeze that ran like squirrels on trees went through and through and spoke only of unfamiliar places. Not there yet but soon.

Jolt! Like sky fire at night their sounds were near! Here! All throughout everyone still seemed to be watching. Sound broke the silent place but only some would really see the course winding swiftly through the towers they touched the sky. Behind the veil that shrouded light and day gray watching watching watching.

A finger tracing the line in the soft fresh snow that led the way towards home. Hanging over, sheltering little frail bodies from the shivering when it comes down all day.

All creatures stopped their moments for this, one.

What if there were a better, faster, newer way?

Remembering then that no one ever came back who had a better way to go. That story was never told. Maybe never by anyone? Distracted. The body felt light, Head swimming with dizzy thoughts. Snow falling off trees and clumping on the ground, down into streams and rivers every season. When it rains the plants grow. Sometimes, it all dries up and sometimes it all burns down. Over and over.

Everything and everyone: they are just fragments; the pieces of life coalescing, breaking, reforming. Time and time again. A cycle; like the breath of the earth coming up in the morning when it’s still cold. Steam. Clouds. Rain. Dry. Salt and stone crushing with great strain and time, breaking, grinding, aching. Deep underneath things boil. It went down and comes back up again like bubbles in a hot spring; they popped at the top they flatten out calm again. Soil: after many feet knew them, used them, water comes to wash it all away, goes down again. Listening to the ground would tell the tale. They listen well. The pieces of life touching deep roots, drink sky. Stories. Time and time again.

Keen eyes in the bush with the sun going down behind the black clouds. Everyone watching. Trees take breaths, their tears, maybe sad; sap runs down their cheeks so slow only other plants could see. It must be pain to see all the same over and over, all the outcomes, and nothing to do but stand and watch and cry. A crust of ice all over everything. It is too cold for fears. Moments happen. The smells change; something known before. The steps were getting easier now.

Pulled-back, like breaking the sky in pieces when the storms come, with no resistance, tearing through the belly of the woods.

Destined, destined.

Snowfall continues on through the evening coating the ground in something soft and wet and cold but peaceful. All over arms that reach the sun and falling to the ground in quiet grunts. The flex and tear of muscles burning with radiant fire and crying for release. Dew on the skin was ice in a second. And ember burning brightly in the darkness.

The brown place of safety within sight, moments moments. Every instant: agony. Muscles, skin and bone. Black and silent. Birds and trees.