This week’s poem, Sandy Stott’s “Shelter Along the Trail,” describes an encounter between hikers – and a quiet but fraught dissonance between two men’s worlds. I love this poem’s assured and distilled storytelling, and how subtly it conveys the complexities of trauma and the desire to connect.

Stott lives in Brunswick and, when not writing, spends a good deal of time working in local conservation efforts, often referred to in “Your Land,” a column he writes for the Times Record about public lands. His 2018 book, “Critical Hours – Search and Rescue in the White Mountains” is in its third printing. Once upon a career, he was a teacher of nonfiction writing and literature, with a focus on Thoreau, the Transcendentalists and the literature of conflict.

Shelter Along the Trail
By Sandy Stott

“Were you in Nam?” I look up
into eyes feral with need I

look up in surprise. In two days
these are his first words.

I consider his brimmed hat
and lank of ponytail hanging


like a lamp’s pull, I consider
his question. “No,” I begin

and already the light is dying
already the spread of distance

is a gulf where my words pitch
like pushed captives from a plane,

“my number was 155 and that year
they stopped four south of it.”

Each sinks, its mild ripples washing out
its pale backside vanishing.

The morning can’t move; we’re all stuck
in the way two sixty-year-olds once


did and didn’t in the way once mustered
we can never leave the service of self

and I want to say, “no no you misunder-
stand me,” but he stands, packs up,

shoulders his rucksack and walks
back into his leafy war.

And then I take the same path
into different woods.

Megan Grumbling is a poet and writer who lives in Portland. Deep Water: Maine Poems is produced in collaboration with the Maine Writers & Publishers Alliance. “Shelter Along the Trail,” copyright 2023 by Sandy Stott, appears by permission of the author.

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