Scrambling down gullies, fording icy streams,
staggering over snow-crust that keeps breaking
so I keep sinking in up to my thighs,
then pulling out a sodden leg again,
first one leg, then the other, barely moving
forward, pursued, pursuing, which is which,
I stumble to a hut at the edge of the forest
where a band of merciful young outlaws
shelter me, give me dry boots, a blanket,
feed me, let me rest awhile by their fire.
I mustn’t sleep. I must be on my way.
The darkness is unyielding, and the cold.
Tangle of black branches. Lantern light on snow.
A friendly little square of fire-lit window
behind me, but again I am pursued,
pursuing: quest, flight, exile. Dawn. Pale sky.
Black boulders line the road. Between steep banks
a brackish stream is trickling downhill.
This article originally appeared in The New Criterion, Volume 31 Number 2, on page 32
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