Keith Dunlap’s work has appeared in numerous publications, and Hip Pocket Press published a collection of his poems, Storyland, in June 2016. A chapbook, My Father’s Death My Brother’s Death My Own followed in 2019. He lives in Portland, Maine.
Betsy Sholl, MAJ Poetry Editor.
We lie on our backs
on the half-submerged shoulder blade
of a massive boulder deposited at this spot
by the recession of a glacier
at the end of the last ice age.
Our counselor has determined
it is safe to build a fire.
The embers melt into our muscle memory
after an arduous but obedient day
of paddling wooden canoes
and humping over-stuffed canvas packs
through Adirondack forests
infested with black flies.
Our grumbling through the sweltering hours
strands us at last on this primeval ledge
where the burning flakes of ash
drift upward to the sky;
like stars stirred by a slow eddy;
like a fresh hatch swarming
as our canoe plashes by.
I will never be eleven again.
But the sensation of being strapped to the earth
and rocketed through quiet space and time,
a castaway, a stowaway, a stranger-guest
to the business of gods and men
will hallow me to this day.
“Men are walking on the moon,”
our counselor says—
the lifeless moon
towering above us
helpless to dominate
but seeming to nonetheless
while our insect anxieties
stare back into its face
with its saintly, condescending smile—
and we are suitably impressed.
Outer space is not very far.
We could drive there in an hour—
no time at all really—before we have shed
enough emotional gravity
to float around like ice cubes
or tourists on a weekend pass
hovering in front of a marbled glass
and wearing 3-D spectacles to see
what we could not see without them:
how this small planet looms before us,
and how free we might in fact be,
if not for the danger
of cosmic rays, meteor showers,
and prolonged isolation insanity.