A Run through the Woods

by Eric Martin

This life is like a wilderness —
A vast, consuming emptiness,
That spreads its borders far and wide,
From Eden’s gate to Lethe’s tide —
A tangled waste, a pathless maze
Of perilous, unfrequented ways —
A hostile place, a lonely quest,
Devoid of love — of joy — of rest —
A few there be who roam its bane-
Infested wilds who ever gain
The summit of fulfillment’s crest.
But to my own mind’s eye, I’ve found
Its tract to be a testing-ground
For human zeal and energy
(i.e. Potentiality) —

And so, my eyes against the sun
Directed, I began to run —
Not like a sprinter, who exerts
Adrenaline in transient spurts,
Or like a star, which as it falls
Collapses into fireballs —
But rather, with indulgent ease,
My progress, like a zephyrous breeze
Became a tempest by degrees.
First, at a gentle pace, through wealds
And wood-lots, heaths and harvest-fields;
Then, by the outpost which divides
Our own from foreign countrysides,
My gait increased to bolder strides;
Then, as the noonday sun waxed hot,
My tread, with each expanding thought,
Accelerated to a trot,
Through wooded vales, calf-splashing rills,
And over lush, colossal hills;
Till finally, as the evening waned,
(My flesh, from physic’s laws unreined),
I plunged, as from a precipice
That overhangs a black abyss,
Into a kind of emptiness,
Almost like death (where everything
Is unsubstantial, vanishing
Like smoke between my fingertips) —
A new-found power to eclipse
Confining matter raging in
My blood —

Like nothing of this world I sped —
Despite the throbbing in my head,
The stinging ache of limbs that bled,
And burning in my lungs and throat —
Undaunted. When some low bough smote
My crown, and plucked my hat away,
I left the bonnet where it lay,
Forgotten in the shameful dust.
When some unyielding boulder thrust
A jagged spur into my side,
I neither winced in pain, nor cried,
But list where in the distance dropped
Its vaulted fragments, cleanly lopped.
And when some chasm loomed beneath
My fleeting steps like awesome death,
I hurled myself across its depths,
And at its brink resumed my steps.
The baking sun, the swarming flies —
As thick as manhood’s miseries —
Inspired rather than oppressed
My zealous heart to run abreast
With that immortal part of me —
Unfettered by Necessity —
Mine own Potentiality —
That only could reflect upon
The race it had already run
Long ere a single step of mine
Had even crossed the starting line.

I stood upon that mountain’s crest,
That overshadowed all the earth,
And saw an empty wilderness
Of latent and uncharted worth.
Its shadiest corners were no less
Than kingdoms — north, south, east and west —
Each plot like an El Dorado lay,
Amid a haze of ocean spray.
I could have lain my tiniest hand
Like night’s cloak o’er that wealth of land;
One finger was enough to blot
From history’s page, from human thought,
The proudest exploits of the race,
Small trophies ‘pon an earth’s broad face.

© 2007 by Eric Martin



About the Author

Eric Martin's poems and translations have appeared in nearly fifty print and online journals throughout the United States, Canada and Great Britain, including The Barefoot Muse, Calenture, Centrifugal Eye, Contemporary Rhyme, Lucid Rhythms, The Road Not Taken, Trellis Magazine, and forthcoming (May 2008) in the Concelebratory Shoehorn Review. A complimentary copy of his chapbook, The Death of Orpheus, and Other Poems, Original and Translated, can be requested at: emart40x@yahoo.com


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