I left the rented cabin in a borrowed car.
Every interaction was an entreaty to behave accordingly,
and I could feel myself going mad.
That morning, a chunk of hair had fallen out at my temple.
I packed and made excuses
and stopped at all my favourite spots on the way out of town:
the breakwater from which I was never brave enough to dive,
the small square of knotted tree roots
where I sat to watch the birds freewheel in a secluded inlet,
the glacial chunk of rock that park employees had greased over
to keep kids from climbing.
I did it once,
despite broken fingernails, a bloodied knee, and stained clothing.
I still grit my teeth remembering the sound of my nails on that stone.
I stood on top, fists on hips, expecting my relatives to see,
but my eyes followed their backs disappearing around a pine.
I drove out down the old highway,
the one my father's parents drove in on when he was a kid,
and ignored the fear of surprise elk and the claustrophobic proximity of the trees,
until a sharp twist in the road took me
to the only place I've ever been sure that I'll die right there every time.
I stopped the car and stood next to the front tire,
listening to the engine parts click in the heat,
and lit a cigarette.
This place would never have me for more than a couple of minutes,
so I sopped up what I could, trying to breathe in the heady marsh
while I slapped flies away from my calves.
That was when I caught sight of a the moose staring at me.
He was at a distance, but I could feel his bullet-hole eyes
casing me from just back of some bullrushes
that were all busted open and shedding their stuffing.
I waited for my heart to stop right then.
There was no point to another breath.
His indifference to me, the marsh's indifference to either of us,
the whole damn void of a nature so full of everything
but heartless enough to steal my breath,
took me away from myself,
and my soul felt sharp as steel.
There was no point to any other thing.
I breathed deep the heavy breeze,
while the moose stared and stared,
until the heat from the car burned my feet
and I remembered the keys.
(This poem was originally published at Schmoetry.)