The left rocker you lifted from inside a cluster of brush
where someone had stabbed it upright to mark
the trail. You’d have pitched it aside after rubbing
the raised grain of weathered oak in your palm, testing
the strength of its curve against your thigh,
but spied the right rocker and cross-members
under a giant saguaro a hundred paces farther on.
Your canteen was dry; you’d lost your way back
and didn’t know where your way forward would lead.
Ah, a few crazy dance steps to the left and right —
two tall poles to form the backrest, and all six
slats. Elbow rest here, there. Better than an armload,
proof you gambled on the odds of survival, planning
to reconstruct this ruined antique some busted pioneer
must have once upon a bad day abandoned there.
All the pieces you assembled in the basement back home,
sanding, gluing, varnishing. Learned to cane
the seat — sent away for the instructions — softened
the bands of cane in the tub, one-by-one wrapped
the cross-members, stitching each loop with heavy thread
to hold them snug. How miraculously this rocker
has lasted. You’re still breathing, this fine October morning,
frost on the meadow, sunrise warm
on your sleeves and chest. A wrong trail
can scatter your bones. Or bring you places you’d never guess.
You’re rocking with your notebook on your lap.
You’re writing this down.
Lowell Jaeger (Montana Poet Laureate 2017-2019) is author of eight collection of poems, most recently Earth-blood & Star-shine (Shabda Press in 2016). He is the recipient of fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Montana Arts Council and winner of the Grolier Poetry Peace Prize. Most recently Jaeger was awarded the Montana Governor’s Humanities Award for his work in promoting thoughtful civic discourse.