by Charles K. Carter
I want to belong to this wilderness.
I want to enjoy full-day hikes
and camping in a tent instead of a camper that costs more than my house.
I walk the five-mile nature trail around this man-made lake
and I want to let the wind wash away my sorrows.
The tall grasses have turned the color of wheat in the fall’s chill.
I smoke a cigarette a mile in.
I stamp the butt beneath my boot
before stuffing it in my hoody pocket.
I’ll properly dispose of it later.
I hear rustling in the trees.
There have been mountain lion sightings in the area.
There is a rumor that my cousin’s dog ran one of these wild cats off.
I pick up a large stick and hold it close
…just in case.
I walk in circles from time to time,
nearly jumping out of these thick bones at birds rustling in the trees.
But then I stop in my tracks.
I pause and I think
what a marvelous way it would be to go
and I drop the stick,
turn my back to the rustling foliage
and keep walking on,
wanting to find a way to belong in this wilderness
even if it is to feed its beasts of prey.
Charles K. Carter (he/him) is a queer poet from Iowa. He holds an MFA from Lindenwood University. His poems have appeared in several literary journals. He is the author of Read My Lips (David Robert Books, November 2022) and several chapbooks. He can be found on Twitter and Instagram @CKCpoetry.