They called me The Wimp, and I was.
Not for any reason I can put my finger on
but because, in general, I lacked wherewithal.
I was a poltroon, and none of them
knew that word or any better than “wimp”
and probably still don’t. If one of them does,
I wouldn’t know so. These years before
and during and after high school
swirl in my memory now like squalls of snow,
like the time when, on a whim, in late December,
my friends and I told our folks we were going camping
in the wildlife refuge two towns over,
the flakes already falling, our gear pitiful
hand-me-downs, none of it insulated or waterproof,
rum bottles clinking in our knapsacks like muffled toasts
to the end of our young lives. Inches had fallen
by the time we bivouacked at the Caratunk cave.
Wet kindling whispered. Not even leaves would catch.
In five o’clock dark, we crawled into the tent
soaked and shivering and stoned, no one willing to state
the obvious –that we might die out there in what,
we all knew by then, was a blizzard unpredicted.
Who it was had the wherewithal to suggest
we pack it in, I don’t recall, but I remember humping,
drunk and exhausted, through two-foot drifts
in the hushed woods, my toes gone numb in thin boots,
our flashlight beams a mix up mystification
panning over moguls of snow-covered brush.
I wouldn’t have minded expiring there
under the laden arms of a spruce.
The past is a distance, and life has, at times,
been a stumbling through thick drifts, batteries dying.
They’d think of me still as The Wimp.
So there’s the future, like the lost pair of sneakers”
we found in the spring, and growing between
their double-knotted laces a sapling.