My poetry buddy, Laurel, and I walk different sections of the same path—a gravel and asphalt trail that follows Nicomekl Creek. Her yesterday’s poem, “Nicomekl’s Regulars,” about the people that walk the path, was pitch-perfect.
But the path—at least the section of it that my husband and I walk—has another cast of characters with another life, a night life. Though we’ve never walked it at night, we’re left with lots of clues of nighttime activity.
After dark the trail’s dog-walkers
spandex-joggers, stroller-mothers and duck-feeders
give way to Nicomekl nightlife.
Hoodie-clad gangs with aerosol cans,
attracted by fresh paint and the already-graffiti’d
bridge underbelly, leave their mark.
Lean, weathered man rattles cart
over gravel to sheltered spot, jettisons mattress,
unrolls sleeping bag, curls up for the night.
Metal-hungry scrounger drags TV prey
under the bridge to eviscerate.
Leaves skeleton and innards for dead.
Roving tribe of tent-dwellers appear—one night
on the stream-bank, the next almost hidden
in new-leafed shrubs, the next under spreading oak.
Night ladies leave a trail of boots, pink bags, frilly tops,
night men—jeans, ball caps, jackets, undershirts.
Somehow a shopping cart lands in the stream.
A plank on the wooden bridge greets morning
black-charred. Across the creek
a blanket-nest lies abandoned.
Restless night segues too soon
to birdsong-raucous day.
Path, exhausted, dozes under returning
and happily predictable dog-walkers,
spandex-joggers, stroller-mothers, and a greying pair
that stride along every morning between 8 and 9.