Secret City

It’s been harder to breathe
for at least a week.

 

We have been climbing since
before today was a day,
breaking our scant camp in the dark.
(We are down to a single blanket).

 

We are lost
but for the guides
who walk ahead of us
whose voices drift back
through the mist
that burnt off
and reformed as clouds.

 

The guides murmur to each other
but have taught us only
stop
left
right
and walk

 

Walk they repeat in their soft voices.

 

Walkwalkwalkwalk

 

We cannot see them
on the trail ahead.

 

I hear my breath
and my heart pounding,
A pebble scatters down the mountainside

 

Walkwalkwalkwalk

 
We’ve been lost for weeks,
or more.
We’ve lost track.
We no longer care.

 

Exhausted with pain.
All other senses gone.

 

I am too tired to remember
how we started this.

 

We were lost.
We argued.
We wandered.
And then we grew too tired to argue.

 

It would not get us home.
It would not save our lives.
It would not tell us which path.
It would not so much as fill the tin cup with water from the stream.

 

That is when the trip changed
without our trying to change it.

 

And then,
(was it the third day?)
the guides came.
We were well up the mountainside.

 

Walkwalkwalkwalkwalkwalk
they said
leftleftleft
motioning
walkwalkwalkwalk

 
And so we followed
from that time until this time.

 

Now we climb,
one behind the other,
watching our footfalls
on the narrow path.

 

A cold thin wind blows a break in the clouds.

 

You stop.

 

I stop.

 

The guides fall silent.

 

All is still,

 

but for the wind and our breathing.

 

In the still-shrouded break,
we see, or think we see,
the steps
to a secret and ancient city.

 
Copyright Kay Winter

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