New Kind Of Distance

I climbed a hill on the only path I knew.
At the top I found many paths leading down.

There were sixteen directions I could take.
But to take one would mean abandoning the others.

I checked each after deciding
to choose the one path where I would meet someone.

Each path was empty of people
though all of them had many trees and plenty of birds.

During the next fifteen minutes
not a single animal crossed any of the trails.

Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.
No mammals appeared in the hour.

My patients were rewarded
when a woman with wet hair up in a towel

sidled her wheelchair adjacent to my hip
without the axles making a squeak

or her heaving breath sounding other than
the leafy breeze on a sunny day.

I felt happy to not be alone at the top.
Words fell from both of us for a time

and clattered like stones to the ground
hitting our ears capped by the long pain of loneliness.

It was only then I realized how untouched
I had been for far too long.

The hill top lowered itself
like a city bus with hydraulics for the elderly to disembark.

She put away a self-retracting tape measure
that failed to hook any part of the altitude

to calculate our descent into entanglement
as the earth flattened our way home.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney

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