In Praise of a Walk: Catherine Creek - Jackie McManus

The creek runs hectic here, reminding me of everything I’ve left
undone. Hurry, you are running out of time, it says. I follow
the rock-strewn ground through an oak and pine savanna where
the old jeep road gains height before it turns into a goat trail.

A wide plank extends from bank to bank where the creek is deep
and still: half of me afraid I will slip into the stone-cold water;
the other half remembering a school field trip where two fathers
killed a quiet rattlesnake, its body wrapped around itself

just off the path. In their dreams, they are champions
of women and children. Decades later my grandchildren play here,
the stream a murmuration, their laughter, birds. Today, rain
and clouds make the air feel like a low vowel. I am trying

not to live in the past but have more past than future now;
the infinity I once felt has fled. I breathe hard up this hill
that never used to slow my pace. Now I look around
at the deep green outcrop of everything. Fascicles of

purple grass widows soon to bloom in this vernal wet place
that, come summer, will be dry and hard and hot. On the plateau,
the surprise of a runnel courses through mounds of basalt,
its sound a hundred prayer bells, small chimes in a slight wind,

spoons tapping on a dinner glass. I see another path,
its merciful slope, its forgiving asphalt curves. This path
is a long-scrambled sentence and I walk inside its circumference,
carrying its fractured meaning until the paths end.

Jackie McManus lives in Washington with her rescue dog, Bailey, which is her daughter’s name. She is an avid hiker and lives ten miles from the poem, walking along the creek to a plateau overlooking the Columbia River. She is the author of The Earthmover’s Daughter and two forthcoming chapbooks, Curses & Delights and Related to Loon, which is about teaching school in an Eskimo village in bush Alaska. She is an introvert, leading a quiet life until the five grandchildren visit, which is a wonderful jolt of life.