Retracing my steps,
I walk my life backwards,
resisting the urge to grasp too soon.
I recede all the way
to where words were not heard,
trading my refinements for the gifts of birth.

Now moving forward, I see once more
clouds on puddles dropped by the sky;
shadows are sponges cast from the sun—
haunts of the forest wrung dry of light.
The grass with attitude makes its own cracks
in sidewalks. It covers the fields without end.

I crisscross these grounds—my native mind,
until I arrive where my headwaters began:
where my gifts still hold me, and not I them,
and words and reasons are merely wrappings.
In this still place, I learn how to breathe again.

John Middlebrook has been writing poetry since he was a graduate student at the University of Chicago, where he served on the poetry staff of Chicago Review. His work has appeared in Writers’ Bloc, Foundling Review, and Yes, Poetry.