The Road Regret Makes
Something was asked. I turned away then
from what turns up now—his face as it was,
not the face reshaped by twelve years
of regret. A day’s work undercut.
I head out to the stream with a black dog
who lives down the road. He sits when I sit,
ribs heaving into mine. Then off he goes,
uphill, following currents of odor.
I go too, surging against the stream’s flow,
mucky clay and rockfall, roots foot-twisters.
Leg muscles thickening, arms swinging
and hauling my body where the trail
has crumbled to nothing. Dog and I panting,
looking down into white rush, a hillside
of cascades, looking ahead to where
the stream shallows, pools, gathers into
its very first plunge. We plunge ahead, up
an abandoned logging road. I’m sweating,
canvas shirt-back wet, breathing hard. Eyes
itchy, flies swarming and my hair switching,
switching, dog hacking from spore he pawed at,
my cheek sticky with web—where’s the spider?
Here’s the razor spine of the ridge, forest
not thinning but blue sky, cloud spray
and I remember what she wrote
in her day-book, Miss Sarah Burton,
that genteel, ramrod spinster,
I would give all I had for a good road.
J. C. Todd is author of Beyond Repair (2021) and The Damages of Morning (2018). Honors include the Rita Dove Poetry Prize and fellowships from the Pew Center for Arts & Heritage and Pennsylvania Council on the Arts. Poems have appeared in Full Bleed, The Paris Review, Prairie Schooner, Virginia Quarterly Review and other journals. www.jc-todd.com