Linda Gregerson

The Wayfarer
October 25, 2018 Gregerson Linda


(Hieronymous Bosch, 1516)
When the wings of the triptych are open as
must often
be the case he’s split in two. As in

another sense he was at his inception since
the painter
having liked his own creation or

engaged by a client determined to claim
the credit for
another of the same produced this

duplicate some fifteen years after the first.
He’s older here,
the man with the woven pack on his

back, he’s still warding off the malevolent dog.
And measuring
progress left to right as one might read

the middle distance with its cautionary
of pleasure and vice. Note the gallows

with its ladder, note (much closer) the
scattered remains
of a horse. The part I can’t quite

solve for is the little bridge. A piece
of civic
courtesy, so notably missing in most

of the view. There’s even a handrail albeit one
so flimsy
that a traveler would be ill-advised to

use it. Still. The thought that counts.
The bridge itself
not timber as the makeshift

construction would in the usual course of
things entail
but quarried stone which wants

a story to explain it. Repurposed perhaps
from a grave-
yard or a fallen church?

Waste not want not, common
in the countryside.
And sweeter too for messing up

the parable: journey of the soul etcetera
pitfalls avoided
dangers survived. And sometimes

just for fellowship the human gift
of making do.
That the panel itself was once

a living tree is what the living rely on
to give us a date.
Vicissitudes of sun and rain

encoded in growth rings for all to see.
Your time here,
traveler, scarcely leaves a mark.

Linda Gregerson is the author of six collections of poetry, most recently of Prodigal: New and Selected Poems (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt 2015).  She teaches at the University of Michigan, as Distinguished University Professor of English and Creative Writing, and is also a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets.