The way there was not the way back.
We walked a graveled path through the woods
sometimes uphill, sometimes down
and sometimes clambering over rocks,
small streams, and fallen trees in our path.

I went as far as I could with him
but then he had to go on alone,
his destination uncertain.
We said goodbye and parted
and I began to make my way back.

I followed the path we had taken
sometimes downhill, sometimes up,
past the trees, the streams, the rocks.
When I came to the end of the path
I was not where we had started out.

It was not the open field we had left
but a town where I had never been.
On the street people stood watching
as a building burned on the other side
and collapsed into dust and rubble.

I drew no glances from the crowd
as I made my way to the street,
looking for a sign, a name, a place,
anything to tell me where I was.
I asked, but got no answer.

I turned and retraced my steps
and found the path we had taken.
It was the same—I had not strayed from it,
not taken a wrong turning or lost my way.
But it had not brought me home.

Nor would that path take me back
to the place where he and I had gone
on that final walk together.
But with that brief farewell,
the landscape of my life was changed forever.

©2007 Dorothy Miller Gutenkauf

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