“Hiking” by Peggy Hammond


the Appalachian Trail was

embraced as therapy,

antidote to tours in Iraq.

Now was the time of peace,

of filtered sunlight among

poplar leaves, of streams

tumbling inside rhododendron

thickets, of learning

if towhee’s call matched

guidebook’s drink your teeeeee,

learning if blue jays can

mimic sharp call of the hawk.

Instead, in the night, you

heard hissed threats,

taunts of tents set aflame,

the proclamation

it’s a bad day for hikers.

As you shed sleep, did

you wonder if this were

troubled dream, the past

tangled again with present?

You survived war

only to wake to a

madman on a trail

with a butchering knife.

I will tell you people grieve you.

I will tell you jays can sound like

hawks and towhee’s song

is sweeter, more melodic

than any guidebook’s

poor phrasing.

Peggy Hammond’s recent poems appear or are forthcoming in The Blue Mountain Review, Crosswinds Poetry Journal, Pangyrus, The Hyacinth Review, Thimble Literary Magazine, Olit, Club Plum, UCity Review, and elsewhere. She is a Best of the Net nominee, and her chapbook The Fifth House Tilts was published by Kelsay Books. Follow her on Twitter at @PHammondPoetry.