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.