John Popielaski

That Special Something

Waking in a two-man tent
is better if you’re one man.
Territorial ambition then
is not an issue.
You can focus
on the filtered light
and argue with yourself
about the singer of the song
you woke to: thrush
one minute, waxwing next.
Unzip, emerge. Release urea
in the designated area,
direct yourself to stream,
and filter water
for the morning. Even here
you never know
what microbe has it out for you.
But even so, you know
this is no pioneer
experience, no death trap,
no frontier and thus
is not authentic,
not evocative
of your resourcefulness
because your presence here
is mayfly and you’ll die
to this life, waking
on the other side
where you will move
from cubicle to cubicle
and sip drip coffee,
fret about such silly things
as thread counts
or the mail
and spend so much
of your allotted time
in front of one screen or another
that you often wonder
if the Puritans were right
and those among the non-elect
are done before day one.
You know you are
a poseur here. You’re not
a black bear or a fiddlehead.
You don’t belong.
On one tree is a sign
for north. On one tree
is a sign for south.
Your path is chosen.
It is practically impossible
to get yourself so lost
that you forget what you have left
behind. You fantasize
about rebellion as you roll
your sleeping bag
and you resolve
to sabotage the turbine
for the wind mill that’s to be
erected on the ridge ahead.
You never will
because you know
subversion isn’t in you
and your parents didn’t raise you
to give up yourself to something
as granitic as that ridge.