Directions

by Norbert Hirschhorn

My ancestors came from Africa, once,
footprints preserved in volcanic dust,
families walking side by side,
trying not to get lost.  Their early words
must have been: “How do I get to? . . . ”
a waterhole, safe trails avoiding
sabre tooth cats.  I was in a jungle once,
in Surinam, tracking with our Wayana
Indian guide under high canopies
of birdcall and buzz, when with Darwinian
sheepish grin he announced he was lost;
we had to wait for someone to show us where to go.
I was in Deutschland once, my father sleeping rough,
evading the Gestapo until we could all escape.
I was in a marriage once, sleeping rough,
no idea how to get somewhere I didn’t even know,
searching for love where it couldn’t be found.
Now in London, I often give directions
to drivers that, since I walk, put them at mercies
of one way streets; they’re long gone when I
realize how wrong I was; wonder if
they ever found where they wanted to go;
think about directions I’ve always needed:
how to be good, which way to heaven.