You’re not the shoes— the skin or the sole—

the toes, the metatarsals or cuneiforms

or any bone, muscle or sinew in the foot;


you’re not the callus, thickening yellow

with every step, stride and shockwave up the tibia,

or the sweat that swaddles the ankle

as a wet nurse who removes the calico from her breast

to suckle another’s baby.


You’re not the legs—

the splints that tingle down the shins and calves

like a line of ants on a flower’s calyx—

or wanderlust, or any impulse or motion that propels

or compels someone to go from the beginning to the end,

you’re not what lies ahead or is left behind;


you are not the light born in the east like a golden chalice

or the darkness that consumes its ambrosia in the west,

you’re not the sun that follows the walker

as a leashed dog or the moon that hides in the dark like a cat

only to reveal itself flat and empty

like famine on a plate,

white chipped porcelain in the sky;


you’re not hunger or thirst,

the waybread or warm canteen water;

you’re not the garbage whirling past you,

possessed with the immediacy of someone with somewhere to go;


you’re not the trip or the fall, the autumn, the shade

or whatever it is that makes the leaves turn brown and take flight;


you are neither the map nor the destination, the journey,

the question or the decision of which way to go,

no, when someone asks you what it’s like to be a parent,

you tell them that it’s like being the road—

dust, dirt and everything that’s stepped on

over and over and over again—

because it is your singular purpose and responsibility,

though you may present bumps and cracks for stumbling

and suggestions that stray away from the path,

you and your traveler’s intertwined destinies

lead to different journeys— one ends while the other continues—

a destination whose completion is bluntly wedged in clay,

a cuneiform written in motion.


But as the graying ashes remember the heat of the fire,

and the moon nurses the caliches wrought on her flesh by earth,

will I remember the indentations left behind by his first steps?