Salamander

Jayne Marek


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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.

Jayne Marek’s seventh poetry collection, Dusk-Voiced, will come out in 2024, and her eighth, Torrential, in 2025. Her writings and photos appear in Terrain, Rattle, The New York Times, Spillway, Bloodroot, Calyx, Catamaran, and elsewhere. She lives in the Pacific Northwest in the U.S., near the wild and beautiful coast, where she writes, photographs, and learns about natural history.

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