During the first few weeks of social distancing, the only regular opportunity that I had to get outside was to walk the South Platte River Greenway, which is just behind my apartment in RINO. These walks during the beginning of spring produced many reflections on the surrounding environment: from the specifics of the river setting, to the growing issues in the larger society around us. The poem ultimately reached its final form on April 22 — Earth Day.
“On the Trail”
Releasing the pent-up quarantine’s wail
from a loathsome shelter tank,
we thirsted for energy at river’s trail,
trading currency in nature’s bank.
South Platte has gifted refuge before:
when placer’s gold beckoned stage one.
Native memories long defined its shores
where Arapahos danced under the sun.
Now all subject to intractable bind
wrought by the virus at hand,
a rigorous trial attacking body and mind,
only our soul can meet the demand.
There is but one natural escape
where thoughts bounce off water’s gleam,
to reflect without choice on our collective fate
while traversing from factory to stream.
Outside the bank vulnerability cries,
as the Elders have a message to send:
respect the space where danger lies,
our tribulations will eventually suspend.
But vulnerability has a peculiar hue
where disconnection births an anxious cry,
protest gathers upon a dangerous cue
while the hands of fate multiply.
Yet I noticed beauty even amidst the grief,
before quarantine swallowed the whole of day.
As prudence waits for summer’s relief
a serene picture can also allay.
Geese climbing the bank without fear,
as the hiker embarks from mountain’s base,
while goslings at side they hold ever dear,
‘tis no longer a desperate chase.
Ducks swimming and fishing as they please,
in fresh water from seasonal snows,
as the hawk swoops down right over their beaks,
disturbing ripples from the water’s flow.
We know sudden disturbance as well,
of viral reaction and expanding wake,
and like the ducks who stood bravely through the swell
our soul will strengthen on the uptake.
Nature has seen such convulsions before
in a history of ages gone by,
the river’s song continues this lore
for as long as the birds can fly.
One final message to circle this tale
from an ageless rhythm and rhyme:
a solemn melody to part with the trail,
though circle is broken only for a time.
Fate has disturbed a comfortable sound,
bringing the cacophonous challenge of our days,
let us turn this weary vinyl around
then pause before we play.
Mother nature will be there no matter our choice,
where her songs never skip the tracks.
The only question is whether we hear her voice
… and its call to welcome us back.
Michael Sage teaches political science at Community College of Denver.