Last week the delightful Scottish poet Elspeth Murray posted some photographs of a trail intersection on Twitter. She referred to it as “a Robert Frost type dilemma.”

She reminded me of my poem “Reckoning,” which describes another Frostian dilemma. Written almost twenty years ago, “Reckoning” is a poem about the difficulties that visit a young couple when one of them is having doubts about their path forward.

Sometimes the choice we make is the wrong one. Sometimes, even when our choice extends the journey beyond what we anticipated, it turns out the right one.

(I should say here that the couple depicted in the poem recently celebrated their 18th wedding anniversary.)

Here is my poem, “Reckoning”:

RECKONING
Camel’s Hump, Vermont, 4083′

I.

Your abacus of worries,
me, counting my own pace, afraid
of the one real thing
I’ve known in years–
Negotiating our vertiginous October,
up through birch, maple, oak, cedar, white pine;
granite rising like barnacles on a humpback.
How do you stay calm?
Conceit hangs from my pack
like an extra water bottle.
I have trouble listening:
Do you want to push me over the summit,
or knock me out with a chunk of granite?
The mountain is not mine, I fool myself
when I play the king.

II.

We get turned around, tricked by language:
The ring of civilization in “Forest City,”
or the sylvan slur of “Forestry.”
The wrong trail is the one I’ve chosen–
And through the muddle, darkness comes,
and fourteen miles is the double of seven.
We switchback over the mountain’s bulge
and bushwhack round its base,
hours multiplied by circumference.

III.

At last back at camp,
we learn to count on each other.
From the stone house meadow:
Our prankster’s rising hump.
We curse and praise its witchery.
On that rock-ribbed blackberry hill
of Vermont’s quiet reckoning, we
calculate the chalk silhouette
in a moonlit night’s
heavy charcoal horizon.

–Scott Edward Anderson

(This poem appeared in Earth’s Daughters journal in 1997.)

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