Dawn of the Journey

By Sally Rice

May 2003

Through the pre-dawn mists peeked the crag,

and near me the gnarled oak, vine

laden, hung over the stream as a bridge

for quarreling squirrels. I checked my pocketwatch

and thought of the second wanderer—

late. I studied the worn scuffs of my shoe;

over many a mountain that old worn shoe

and its mate had led me over, bridges

it had crossed, great boulder and crag

it had climbed. Again I checked my pocketwatch,

brushing a wayward, windblown vine

away from the span's rail. I was a wanderer

too, you know. A first rate wanderer—

if there is such a thing. The sun came over the crag

and shards of light broke though the vines,

creating a magical scene about that old bridge;

it was as if a scene from Cinderella—that girl with the glass shoe—

had exited a fairytale and entered into real life. A pocketwatch

lost its value; what place had a pocketwatch

in magic? Or my dirty, scuffed old shoe?

But a man of adventure, a true wanderer,

would belong. His sword would bring down the vines,

clearing a path to the dragon's nest upon the black crag,

where a damsel waited for rescue, and all just beyond the bridge…

I laughed—what a fantasy!—standing on that bridge.

My friend, my fair lady, the second wanderer

had arrived. Smiling, I pulled out my pocketwatch;

she made no excuse, but tapped on shoe impatiently,

eager to be away. The sun had risen fully over the crag,

the damp clung no longer to leaf of vine,

it grew warmer, the breeze hardly stiffing the vines.

Taking her hand, I led her off the bridge;

my companion, my damsel, my fellow wanderer.

Slowly we went, the dusty road stirred only by our shoes.

No more did I mind the time or pocketwatch,

my eyes were on her alone, her eyes were on the nearing crag.

How could a man forever journey and wander

alone? Without another heart to cross the next bridge,

or a love to guide over mountain, valley, and bleakest crag?