Blood For The Knuckles, Pencil For The Page

Brian Michael Barbeito

What shall you do now that your computer and technological devices are broken? You have no camera either, no little thing to prop you up, to focus you. Are you willing to hike, when everyone else has gone home, or not come at all, for the inclement weather? And can you write after, on paper, with nobody watching, possibly even with a pencil? Maybe your knuckles are still bloody from the fall. If you use the proper pronouns and tenses and clean up the blood, somebody might read it. You don’t have to be a good writer, or a good hiker, that is not what is meant. Better to be a bad writer and a shaky hiker, then good at anything else. So here goes….

Clouds large, like continents.

It’s daylight but it might as well be night. The clouds move in and make the firmament opaque, saturated with dark blue and grey, but not the type from movies or poems. No, some other manner that is somehow trenchant, ready to quarrel, up to no good as they say. To be completely honest, at the beginning, there is in the distance, a couple moving toward the wind and coming winter storm. They can’t be more than thirty, have a medium size brown, or beige dog at foot, and are slowly walking around the other side of the sixty-four-hectare field. I head in the opposite direction, along the other side, to a more solitary place, winding down a far path that will separate us. I glance back, one last time in the direction of the couple. They have stopped to kiss and the dog runs around joyfully, a naive mix of hair and ears and tail against the snowy earth. Kissing in this? They must be having an affair, or newly in love. Crazy. Sooner or later you see it all….

The wind rhymes with nothing. It sounds itself in one constant, and continuous note.

I move up a ridgeway that runs along the perimeter of fields, I can see that the few spring-like days have made a dangerous mess out of the area. These are the worst possible conditions. What happened was, the snow melted to slush, hikers and canines walked the terrain and made hundreds, if not thousands of prints, indentations, edges and crevices, of every size and manner. If it had been a real spring, there would have come next more slush and mud, and good old-fashioned tributaries of unleashed water. But then, the warm was just a glitch in the weather, and it froze and froze, hard, overnight. I keep walking, staying to the sides of the trail, in hopes that somehow, it might get better. I mean, I am already there, into it.

It didn’t.

Soon I am in the middle part of the fields. Here, all the paths briefly intersect. The lovers don’t show up, which is good. It will be only me, the hills and valleys, and open space. The wind revs up, and I keep watch, waiting, to see some solitary fox, rabbit or coyote run by, or look from somewhere in the distance.


A blackbird alights on a scarecrow-like tree, becoming part of this natural canvas, this still-life. I am beyond the intersecting paths, and now down a hill, heading towards the forest that waits at the end of the open fields. I keep on that path, then venture into the thick forest—the path rising and falling like a small roller coaster. Ten minutes into the forest, the path moves up and high, to my right I see a large valley, almost barren of leaves and bushes. From this place, I can see its secrets—in the wind, small brown leaves brush themselves against bushes here or there, and sometimes one, but often a grouping, fly up a trunk or over a boulder and swirl around in the air, before becoming unleavened again. These bits of things are dead, yet the storm winds have resurrected, animated them.

The leaves are like Lazarus.

I have to watch my footing. Every step. In all my daydreaming and head poetry, I gaze into the valley too long and fall down a ridge, tumbling like one of those dead leaves. Hands bloodied, ego harmed, I get up, wipe the dirt and blood off on my pants. I feel my knife tucked against my leg, turned to the inside, latched by a silver clip. Now my pants are blue and brown and red, but also white, for now, the snow is falling again.

When I have made a circle, I find a summit, then come out of the darker forest and into the lightened fields. I stand there. It becomes impossibly cold then, as the temperature drops and I am in the open. Any slight romantic notion of “a person in nature,” leaves. I am part of the wind and ice. After surveying the land for
miles in all directions, I walk on. I am headed to the south, I see tree lines where I have been on the inside; there, where Birches hide, where Chaga mushrooms have been harvested. In the summer and autumn months, it’s like a fairy tale. But not today. To the north, hilly fields rise between old fences and boulders, in strange places, wildflowers grow, tinted blue, adorned with bright pink and purple hues.

Worlds within worlds.

I walk more and do an odd thing. I open my wallet and pull out a coupon for a free coffee. There is a picture of the coffee and the steam rising from it. When putting away this remnant of the world and its comforts, I almost slip again. Moving toward the trail’s end, the parking lot, I pause and look back at the tree line, an artifact, standing, watching silently from where I came. Its barren branches make shapes of rare and unknown large birds, skeletal structures of creatures, all against the stormy and impossibly deep blue-grey sky. I inhale the wind that is coming at me, like Hamsun healing himself atop a train car. Prayers are made inside to God, Christ, The Virgin Mother, Saints, Angels, Guardians, Guides and Ancestors. For what? For life, for continuance in all, to be a part of a higher will and movement.

I walk over more little hills, then move off the path to wander willfully atop snow and around logs. This time I touch the logs carefully and surely, and for long times, with both hands. It darkens, but I walk through a series of winter reeds, a wash of light beige. They blow over and against me, shaking themselves against my legs and hips. I am soon immersed in them. I baptize myself then, by their song and dance, by being with them in spirit, under the maudlin shadows of the clouds, and the capricious ways of inner and outer weather I have come to know.

The lovers and their dog are gone. I know this as I look and see one jeep, my own, under the grey, pre-dusk sky. I am not like them. The forest and fields entertained them for a time, as a distraction. They have one another; the woodland is a backdrop, part of the mise-en-scene of their lives. To me, however, the forest is the beloved, and at times even more.

It is sacrosanct.

Brian Michael Barbeito is a Canadian poet and photographer. Recent work appears at Fiction International and CV2 The Canadian Journal of Poetry and Critcal Writing. Brian is the author of Chalk Lines (Fowl Pox Press, 2013).
Featured Artwork: By Hnhogan [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], from Wikimedia Commons