On The Track

By Peter Halstead

It certainly can’t be, this scene
Between my ankle and my calf,
The topography of the lower shin.
Neither getting out or getting in
The bath does it appear—
Only when the water’s still, the limbs
Submerged, does the
Treasure of the leg emerge.
Not the leg per se, but only
The dark territory around
The ankle’s northmost boundary.
(Unbelievable apparitions
Require more definitive geography.)

Two former melanomas
Rise like domes above
The landscape of the skin,
The contours of a map
Drawn perhaps by hair and yet
When I pat them down
By hand the lines remain.
The other leg shows no such
Secretive terrain, only normal
Flesh and bone, so my research
Proves the right leg alone contains
These astral programs of the brain.

Outside the tub the area
Turns to wet and matted strands
Where formerly there were such airs
And twistings of the lands.
A camera focused on the square
Refuses to settle on the waves
Of heat and thermals rising
From the water world’s capsizing
Edge to pencil in the seiche
Caused by breath or blinking,
Facts submerged by the daylight
Sinking, the world turning ghostly
When you look too closely.

But here’s a dotted trail, the climbing route
To squamous knolls mounded
By the sun some time ago,
Almost flat when seen between
The layers of the slosh,
But clearer, probably, to the submarine
Adventurers below, rugged and unwashed,
Cosseted in the atmosphere,
The true spirit of the bath,
Where those who venture off
The path will find new worlds to
Explore. Overwhelmed by
The remoteness of the shore, you
Might be the first to feel the winds
On the wildest and most isolated
Corner of the limbs, where the scenery
Comes and goes, depending on the sudden
Relocation of the elbows.

Here’s Our Lady of the Ankle,
High above the mining scars,
Frozen tarns and glaciers,
Inaccessible to ATVs or cars,
But with a canoe
And expertise to brave the torrents,
Fissures, and the bears below,
It’s worth it for the view.

And the sudden swirls of
Topo lines that indicate
An impossible ordeal,
Before the long and slow descent
To the wrinkles of the heel.
Buried in the folds of skin
(Not included in the first edition),
Only moles survive, if damaged
By the intensity of sun,
Soiled and dripping hills
Unprotected from the elements,
Unapproachable and airy,
Camouflaged in moss, but still
On certain days unearthed,
Legends meant to be discovered
By the sodden and unwary.