Take One by Mouth

Every morning, a pill trembles
down the throat: a shimmy-down rattle, a
split-second tinnitus. Since this ritual
began, I wake sweat-soaked from dreams
of nakedness and water, things
that drown. It’s your fear of being
exposed, the doctor tells me, how you
latch the door and lock it. I tell her I am trying
to get somewhere. I’d like one
pinpointed accomplishment, tacked
to the map of an imaginary country, a tiny flag
to show where I’ve been. Of all
the mercies I’ve known, this one, this
capsule, is least like miracle. Pull it apart:
grains like the eggs of insects. Science explains
how it dissolves, how the brain absorbs it. Our beings
are chemical, my pastor friend tells me, yet somehow spirit,
as we walk to the river, to the new path, a link
in the trail not yet completed. Machines
disappear beneath the bridge, transporting rock,
shoring up the bank. Above us, the osprey’s perch
sits empty. She’s seeking sustenance,
circling. It’s OK to simply be.
A mantra stitched to the flag
I leave here, any color but white. We walk to where
the blacktop turns to gravel. Then we turn back.

-Kathryn Smith

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