I started to climb,

counting my steps

stepping over

fallen Douglas fir branches

pale striped as the birches

of my own eastern slopes.


A hundred, five hundred steps,

up and down a trail no wider than

the span of two hands,

the ground bouncing

as the countless lives

beneath my feet

push back against

my transient weight.


Eight hundred, a thousand,

Two thousand steps

As the wind breathes

through lungs of green,

as the flow of the stream below

offers its constant harmony.


And then I stop,

not really weary,

but not needing to trade

one glimpse from the top,

still far from sight

for an uncertain

return in the dark.


And though I do not wish to pretend

that the years I carry

equal that much more wisdom

there is one question

I’ve learned to ask.


How far must we go

before we know

we have to turn back

to return with the light?


What is breath

but the gift of the wind?


What is song

but the shaping of breath


And what do

the old trees do

with the wind?

Joseph Bruchac PDFs:

Selected Poems and Writing

Joseph Bruchac has been creating poetry, short stories, novels, anthologies and music for over 30 years.  His work is a reflection of his Abenaki Indian heritage and Native American traditions. He is the author of more than 120 books for children and adults. The best selling Keepers of the Earth: Native American Stories and Environmental Activities for Children and others of his “Keepers” series, with its remarkable integration of science and folklore, continue to receive critical acclaim and to be used in classrooms throughout the country.