Salamander

Jayne Marek

Tough going on a forest hike.
The brush resisted us as we trailed
in a staggering line under second growth,
through leaps of young raspberry canes,

stumps, thin trunks insistent for light.
I wished not to be there, not to have to—
time after time—find myself pathless
but wandering, far from what I’d prefer.

But sometimes I should not say no, just do
the dogged work, like tending a woods.
We followed the steward, worried about missteps.
As the man in front of me lifted his boot,

I saw a brown gleam twist in the muck
under foliage: a salamander
on its determined way slid across stems
and wild blackberry vines,

its cover broken open by the intrusion
of human purpose. I reached
with wet gloves to pick up the animal,
felt its six-inch strength against my fingers

pushing hard, so vigorous I let it
flow from my right palm to the left and right
again, its wedge head and firm tail
whipping, before I slid it under leaves

away from our human path.
It flicked into shadow. I stepped over
my resentments, their thorny,
rooty fenders, toward the unmagical

shoulders moving farther into the woods,
where, yes, I later became lost for a good hour,
being green myself about how to manage
something as simple and difficult as this.

Jayne Marek

is a

Guest Contributor for Panorama.

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