Traveler Our Name
Traveler my name.
But do not ask where I am going
As I travel in this limitless world
Where every step I take is my home.
I. Starting Out
This June morning the universe stands upright
and walks with me. The breath too stands up
striding out on Belt in Upper Northwest.
We travel through numberless greens
and sunlight ringing like bells. Pebbles
and stone walls also walk and say hello then
turn with us onto Jenifer near a brick house
dingy with age and decay flowing too.
Oaks and pines and lindens stroll to stretch
their legs. They find their way to the limits of the sky
and another sky appears and treks with them.
I can’t keep up with the long-legged trees.
On 41st Street low clouds match their pace to ours.
The fire hydrant and nearby daffodils leave their posts.
A mockingbird stares at a massing of marigolds.
“Why is my song coming from the flowers?”
A small pile of fur from something dead roams
with us and the modest grass saunters slowly
talking with the bees and beetles it shelters.
Trash cans and old boots in the alley follow the trees.
All of life steps over a green garden hose and
the hose and matted clover wander too.
A man with a scraggly beard exercises his dog
who lumbers beside him, both unfolding with us.
I become the dog and shake my head to play.
Petunias in containers on a patio turn nomadic.
A woman in a faded baseball cap and blue t-shirt tosses
the trash and returns to the intimate space of her home.
As we swing onto Harrison, suddenly the wind kicks
up and a girl comforts her crying brother and the wind.
Our peripatetic lives—a vanishing into vanishing
like clouds. At the corner of Belt (discontinuous)
a bank of daylilies leans toward the road--
a torrent of yellow—we ramble together.
Whirligigs whirl in a yard on Garrison as we climb
to 39th Street, boxwood opening the moment.
We pass houses without porches that look bereft,
unsure how to welcome or protect their guests.
Parked cars, contemplative without passengers--
on what back roads do they wander?
Sunlight falls on an abused cat left out all night.
Sunlight and the cat together lean into tenderness.
The wonder of walking, forever changing
with all beings—stillness moves through a billion
worlds without ceasing.
II. Reaching Fort Reno Park
We cross the street to Fort Reno, the highest
natural point in DC, and start along the narrow path.
Under our feet the wounded earth. We walk with
dignity, trying not to imprint further harm.
We see a middle school playground below a grassy hill.
A man, stooped, wearing a garden glove on one hand
grasps the crook of an umbrella doubling as his cane.
His presence so quiet his face disappears.
I pass close to a woman who resembles my mother.
A great loneliness that disappeared after she
died returns. I invite my mother to walk with me.
We free each other of many difficulties.
God walks too and enjoys talking to the open fields
and to the blue cornflowers upright and underway too.
Shouts from boys playing baseball. Rugged junipers
near a chain-link fence turn to look. Someone hits a home
run! Crows gasp. Together we enjoy it, all of life.
Near the school parking lot, a child on a skateboard--
passing each other we exchange faces. I’m on the
skateboard and he’s running. Several boys pour out of
the school. I remember the boys under mylar in cages.
"Deleted family units" they cannot walk out.
I walk with them, we do not give up. I walk with
others caged in mind who disgrace humanity.
Circling the park, I return to 39th Street.
At rest and yet always walking,
no one, no thing is left out.
III. Crossing to 39th, then Huntington
Traveling light—we bring only the moment.
Everything pares to walking.
If we stop walking, the wind and stars cease walking.
If the wind halts we halt, water stops singing in the
streams and coursing beneath the fields. If the trees stop
lifting toward heaven, we cease caring and the ants too
and the sound of a mower starting up would not
start up and the Jack Russell barking would fall silent
and the heady scent of honeysuckle would remain
within, unshared. How fragrant its pale flowers.
We turn left onto Huntington, a vagabond too,
enjoying the sights. All things migrate like the snow
goose suspended from our front porch or shadows
blown about by the wind over mountains and seas.
Plants have fallen in love with silence. Hostas spilling
over the road heal it of any anxiety our feet hold.
Is there anything that does not travel? Even light
sets out with one foot before, one foot behind.
A conference of signs? Neighborhood Watch,
blue ADT, Two-Hour Parking, green letters on
a white ground. An arrow for a One Way Street.
“Hate Has No Home Here,” the loveliest flower
in that front yard in these dark days. Signs roam
along with a gas grill, lawn chairs, and phrases of Spanish.
Where is my umbrella that serves as a cane?
Back aching, I sit down on a low garden wall.
Our miraculous, ordinary lives.
IV. Turning Home
All beings and I walk until there is no ground
beneath our feet. Like breath we cling to nothing.
The stillness of walking is inexhaustible--
we are not going anywhere.
Veering right onto 41st Street, we head for home
and at once we make out the fiery wines and golds
of autumn, the icy branches of winter oaks,
white dogwoods, and the dusty greens of August.
The four seasons are here, and their weathers,
the glinting snows, the tumble of rains, and the scorch
of summers intensifying with the warming climate.
Past, present, and future are here. The sun and the lonely
phases of the moon are together at last. All the joys
ad sufferings we encountered on the road are here.
Which were joys? Which sufferings?
Boundless I see my mother, my father!
And the eternal lilacs whose fragrance she loved.
All beings and I, on the arm of my father, walk down
into the roots of the trees and up past the Milky Way.
The stars walk with us, pointing out the sights
in heaven, and we offer the warm stars
the marvels on earth, a freshness
beyond life and death, heaven and earth.
Here in eternity, beyond eternity--
what familiar sights!
No boundaries together we stride
into this very moment
and abide always.
Poem and watercolor by Susan Efird