The Cold Road

by Kevin Jones

“My wife and I walk the cold road in silence, asking for thirty more years.”
—Ted Kooser

When we set out before sunrise to face the cold,
     we walk through it in contextual stride,

not asking how many steps will make the walk,
     not asking why the road bends up ahead.

The fences suggest that someone has made a claim,
     although the branches of a willow tree

reach out into the street and brush your shoulder.
     That’s the kind of thing that lasts anyway,

I think, and say maybe that willow is bending
     toward the occasional river that runs

down the gutter in spring. We all have memories,
     you say. The neighborhood soon gives way

to an older kind of life, pine and twisted oak, an owl
     pushing a sleepy hoo down the hillside.

I wonder as I walk beside you how vivid is the pain
     you carry. I wonder about the uncertainty

running the length of your fingers in my hand. I look above
     the trees at the deep purple sky that must be growing

lighter by now. A deer snaps a branch in the thicket
     and his crowned head bolts upright in alarm.

He knows he has made a mistake. But there is nothing to fear
     this morning of a quiet man walking the cold road alone.

— from Juniper Volume 4, Issue 2