ONE STEP, ONE BREATH, ONE METER
We hike six hours limberlost in dreamwork clouds, pause
stone-faced like bodhisattva statues wrapped in red bibs, rest.
Protected for the afterlife, we step through the door to the bay
far south from Edo and travel east, where every sacred stone
is within reach yet nothing divine is within touch. We cross a bridge
of great crow length on the fourth day of the eighth month
deep green hills hold up heavens, sound of water falls
into water. We shelter in sun goddess myth, invite
her three-legged raven as guide on Kumano trail, Japan.
Shrines cover stones and trunks with moss, rain
weeps through cliffside walls; we climb up waterfalls,
steep in pilgrimage over footbridge streams:
water overlaps water
our feet land soaked on stone.
Trail roots break sticks, break strides
footing slick with moss, inches thick with green.
The math of paces solves syllables of exact footfall:
one step, one breath, one meter. Thirty thousand times.
We settle (inn), spend our nights on ryokan paths, onsen baths,
the unreal dwellings of tatami-matted rooms. We shed rain gear,
squeeze the monkey’s sweat from sore boot bones.
Buckwheat pillow sleep unwinds tracts of cedar and fern,
needles and mist, each one a poem measured in mantra
the only poem rehearsed in the long march dream:
every step the first step
all eternity stretches back to yesterday:
one step, one breath, one meter.
Wayne Mennecke teaches science at Islip High School. He is a 2017 recipient of the New York State Senator Phil Boyle “Teacher of Excellence Award” for his efforts teaching Anatomy & Physiology and AP Biology. When he isn’t writing poetry, he spends parts of his summers in Tennessee digging for mastodon fossils for the Gray Fossil Museum or in the badlands of North Dakota and Montana digging for dinosaur fossils with the Marmarth Research Foundation. His poetry appears in Fracture, Pencils Down and Hypochondria, as well as a few online and print journals.