By Vernie Lynn DeMille
The road ahead vanished on top of a far green hill.
What could be trees gathered in the cut of the mountain beneath which they grew.
Branches reaching up, I reaching forward.
Hoping to greet them by evening.
The fields beside me called out, golden, sage, and rustling.
The silent hum of growing swells beneath my feet.
The soil so deep and rich I knew
If I planted myself there in that wealth I would blossom.
The vanishing point beckoned.
The trees and rocks, spires of ancient tabernacles,
Rang out the call to pray, to worship at their feet,
I covered my head and carried on.
Down a knoll, by a tumbling stream, beside a porch for sitting,
A young woman hanging clothes on a sun-drenched lawn waved a greeting.
Her smile invited me in, two chairs in the shade waited patiently.
We spoke over the gate of children, vines, and laundry lines.
I could not bring myself to unlatch the lock.
I may be tempted to stay in the abundance of home.
Deep in the holler, unseen but constant, the heights were calling.
I bid farewell and glanced back to see her smiling still.
She watched and I waved until I could see her no more.
The heat was high now; the land soaked in the sun and shrunk.
The soil grew mineral dense and sparse in green. Rocks vied with the mountains for my view.
I rested briefly, under the remnants of a roof and adobe walls.
The shade was sweet, the smell of lilacs ghosting through broken windows.
I rested there, a moment only, for the mountain still loomed.
High and handsome, strong and sturdy as a God upon whom I placed my trust.
I roused myself and carried on. The mountain and the trees always before me,
Though the road twisted and turned, dipped and veered, they remained: always in view.
The arc of day fell, the sun that shone the light upon the way at morn
Now blinding in its brilliance.
I looked long at the hard-pan soil. What had been rich was barren.
The wind blew about me, the earth dancing in the breeze and flying to that far hill.
The mountain stood, silent now in evening shade.
The trees at the base were still. No longer reaching, only waiting.
The color of the knoll was unclear. What had seemed green distorted by the light.
I saw the road, my path clear to the point of perfection I could not put in focus.
No call came with the fading light. No prayer or hymn
Only a remembering from the haze of morning.
Jupiter and Mars revealed themselves, the sky and the earth, and I a weary Janus Quirinus,
Defender of the faith, my spear beaten into a traveler’s staff.
Onward, forward, praying ever for a beckon.
The sweat of day now cold ice crystals upon my skin.
Wrapping myself around myself, pulling in my edges until the lines
Between soul and shadow blurred and merged.
Where I could not keep the chilling out, bringing the frozen in.
It was no longer longing drove me on.
Determination only moved my feet. I had seen the path; I knew the place
I would go on, though the mountain was naught but a darkness on the sky
Where the stars could not be seen.
How long the grey lasts when dark is gone and dawn withholds,
Awaiting a chariot of gold; while mere mortals move with feet of clay.
And move I must, for the grey is heavy as stone
And stillness makes of me a mountain: unmoving and immovable.
At last, the blush of day, a rush of blood, touches the frozen peaks;
Still as far away as I thought them yesterday at morn.
The darkness recedes, but for that which now is mine,
I rise, take up my spear, and carry on.
Something moves past me in the early cool of day,
The prelude to a song, unsung but rising, swelling like a fertile seed.
I lift my eyes from my crumbling feet, and see them wave;
Two trees beneath a mountain, with a road between.
The hymn hits me, a weapon of such accuracy that only the heart is destroyed.
The feet still move, the lungs draw breath,
The hand that grasps the spear maintains its strength,
While all that I am and love and will ever be beats out in blood and tears.
“Devoveo” I whisper in gasping pain, as each step further erodes my beginnings.
Hoping that the pain of journey is worth the promise, I glance at my feet again.
The clay that walked through fire is holding, all else is left behind me to mingle in the dust.
I lift my eyes, and the peaks loom above me.
It is the wind, breath of heaven, which touches me first.
Fresh from the mountain tops, cool and carrying the fragrance of cedars,
It passes by and lifts me, the road lifts up, and up, just a little farther.
Until I stand upon the green hill, beneath the trees, beneath the mountains, beneath the sun.
At last I stand, ragged, torn, bleeding, and diminished
At the Vanishing Point.
I close my eyes at journey’s end, and sit beneath the shade.
The heat of travel flows from my fingertips and toes to the soil beneath me,
The earth returns a cool stillness in trade.
I open my eyes to the golden touch of sundown.
The last rays illuminating the treasure I have traversed.
There is no hurry in me now and so I remember.
Soft words over a garden fence, fields of green on a mid-summer morning,
Red adobe beneath an unbroken sky, the dark night of faith beneath a silent heaven,
The achievement of a goal, the culmination of devotion.
A quietude of thought settles upon me,
The final rays disappear from the sky and the fields of root and stone are entombed in night.
The silence of sleep evades me. The light of unnumbered stars move above me, hour by hour,
Moment by moment I count their passing.
Star fall and daybreak move across me, day upon day, season by season.
I feel no longing to move. I look back upon those green fields,
From the truing of my dream, and they are more beautiful than memory.
They are bitter on my tongue, and salty on my lashes.
White blossoms drift from the branches over head,
Occasionally an acorn rolls beside me, but I am too restful to retrieve it.
Leaves fall upon me, small bits of sunlight drifting slowly on the breeze.
Now and then, a flake of snow touches my open, unmoving eyes.
My glance falls on the roots beside my hands, where I rest beneath the leaves,
The moss and lichen cover both, the grey and brown.
I have been too long upon the ground and find it hard to rise.
The sacrifice has become the altar, the ashes of my offering scattered to the four winds.
I try to rise, and sink back,
Umbilical vines around my limbs tight against my skin.
I try again, tearing my hands loose from the loam, wiping my palms upon my thighs.
Push against the rough bark, and stand upon uncertain feet.
The vanishing point; where all that was sinks into long past,
Where all within me stills into a living death and I decide:
To remain safely buried or to embrace rebirth.
The vanishing point; where all past paths coalesce
Into one place, one time, one decision.
Where all roads lead and many roads leave.
A place to see both ways, forward and backward,
Transition and progress.
The traveler soul’s rest…
Before he journeys on.
From where I stand, unknowing and misknown,
The roads lead suddenly on, in many-faced directions,
Up and down, north and south, and all ways but past ways.
I have but to choose.
Of all the thousands, only one.
Of all the directions, only one.
From here to the next place of rest, but one path.
Like the scent of Daphne on a frail spring breeze,
A whisper brushes past me. I reach out
And tangle it in my fingertips.
I bring it to my cheek and the texture, soft like the fleece of a lamb
Smoothes away the footprints of fear.
I hold it before my eyes and catch the gleam of precious ore.
It is gilded, a touch of fire that can’t be felt, only followed.
I breathe deep of the green around me,
The leaves, the soil, the setting sun.
I look at my feet.
Newly cast, fired hotter, a stronger stone.
It is all before me, all roads, all possibilities
I have but to take the step.
I lift my foot,