This hill stands as it always seems to —
empty, except for me today.
I breathe in air where I am now,
inhaling the essence of all other walkers
who have passed this tree, this gulley, this marker
and I wonder if walkers breathe you in today,
there, on that hill, on the other side of Earth.
What of you is left there, what of your fellow soldiers?
The dust of your steps,
drops of blood melting the snow, a jagged exhale,
a hurried inhale?
Do those other walkers today come to know you
as you were then, as I never shall —
then-now, nineteen, hunkered down, slipping past signposts,
fingers unbearably cold.
Do hills hold remembrance in their bones,
in the syllables of leaves overhead?
Do they hold them with tenderness?
Even if the memories are of sins?
Do they offer them to walkers strolling lightly
over their roots and rocks today?
Do the walkers accept them?
Can we walkers mix them with now-life,
heal them, restore the innocence
of boys camping in the woods?
I inhale, I pray, I grasp at all-time, then-now,
but am left merely to breathe,
to witness, to wonder,
to mix hope and future
into what the past has left us,
to lift all of this gently forward.
Jenifer Cartland’s poems have appeared in Anawim Arts Journal, Peninsula Poets, The Wayfarer (Pushcart Prize nominee), Tipton Poetry Journal, Ribbons, NatureWriting and on her blog (poemsfrominbetween.com). She is a native of Chicago and now lives and teaches yoga in southwest Michigan.