Volume 28, Number 4

After Mythology

You’ve found stones the shape of your fist
by grey lakewaters, quartz studs

like knuckles and curled thumbs
of bony granite. Fear burns cleanly

these days, bright as oxygen and
just as cheap. A buddy tells you he mistrusts

anyone who says to mistrust anyone
over thirty. You don’t tell him

you mistrust all the lost beings
who dwell in high places—words fall

and scatter into unknowable flocks
from such heights, and just how

can a god or a guy with a bad combover
see what life’s like in America’s Midwest,

even if they’re both in government jobs and
presumably know how to use Google?

Never mind that you’re almost
thirty yourself, been almost thirty

for years, ever since you could talk.
You know folks who rub ash

into their skin like it was soap,
who’d live their lives in a scullery hell

just so they could complain about
tending the coals. They trace footpaths

in the grime of their skin, list names
of people whose lives they’d like to possess,

and forget that we’re all on the same quest
to recover the same sacred objects long lost:

broken housekeys, dishonored names,
hearts that stay true in windy darkness.

But none of us have maps or wings
or signposts—all the territory is new

in a world that refreshes every hour,
and we’ll only ever have the tools

given to any traveler wandering after dark:
our feet, a door, a thin and moonlit road.

—Samuel T. Franklin