Roads and Trails

Robert VanderMolen

In a sports magazine in the barbershop
I found a photo of a man and woman
Sitting on lawn chairs in their underwear,
Smiling, like they’d cornered the market
On leisure, an ad for Mexican liquor, I believe,
An open door behind them, an overhang
Supported by posts of beech, a clothesline
Drooping out of view – I was astonished,
A cabin that looked just like mine, he said,
In summer the hardwoods dark and heavy,
Mossy, even the chairs looked like mine.
How did they find the place, how did they open
It without a key?

Many cabins look similar, I said. He always
Came up with stories like this

Fishing from his boat at Tipi Dam
Wearing a skeet shooting vest, cigar tilting
Under a moustache (somewhat bandit-like),
He spoke of walking the trails without a flashlight
When the moon was large, until one evening
Hearing unruly sounds, he grew fearful
Of bear and cougar. That was a peculiar moment …

You need to visit sometime, he insisted,
Especially in the fall, when leaves of the birch
And popple spark into yellow along the stream
– small brookies if you like,
I could use the company …

Years later, with the map he had drawn,
Curled and discoloured, like a treasure map,
Though overly detailed, complicated,
I spent half a day roaming logging roads (some new)
Sipping beer (into the bones of an afternoon,
as he used to say) until I drove down a rutted hill
Of clay onto the property

He was deceased by then, as was his brother …

A pirr of air, a verdant scent of nostalgia
That wasn’t mine, though it was arresting …

In the meadow I found a deer pole with sapling struts
Sagging with age thirty feet in front of where
The cabin burned down – a cement pad still visible –
The night the hunters (his nephews, I understand)
Drove into town for the strip show. That’s all I know.
A few monarchs lifting among milkweed,
Part of the two-track narrowed by raspberry cane –

Under stark shade, curving, the track descended further,
Maybe a mile, until it petered out on an unexpected plain
Containing the stream he had mentioned … I sat
For a bit on the bank, like a runaway prisoner
Feeling light-headed, water coursing over shale,
My hands in grass …