Once in Spain a path led me through woods
to a village of pink stone where I found the women,
sweltering in black, throwing the hay to the sun.
“Not for you, hi ja!” they laughed and went on lifting.
I stood in the shade watching the field blaze and fall.

Yesterday the path swung out over the ocean
so suddenly it hurt – that huge blue knocking my lungs
full of hope when I’d been bent over mosses,
tuned to the squelched sound of the creek.
So often the path leads nowhere, backs up into brush,
disappears in a parking lot, butts into wire.
Days I’m longing for something to lift me
like a birthday to where I am praised
just for coming, just for staying on –

And I remember the women in Spain,
how they wouldn’t be led from the field.
They gave me cider and shade but kept
the color of their clothes,
the heat of the day, their hay’s sweetest hour.

Noelle Oxenhandler’s most recent book is The Eros of Parenthood. Her
writings have appeared in many national and literary magazines, including
The New Yorker, Tricycle, and Parabola. She lives in northern California
with her daughter.

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Posted by kind permission of the poet.