For Clothes

by Jonathan Travelstead

Fifty feet off the trail in a low valley, afternoon.
Nude, he hunches on his ankles, dips his clothes in moving water.

The fold in his belly tells him he is aging
and his penis feels the warning of cold rushing just below its tip
as if seeing a fish, or its reflection for the first time.

There is no such thing as silence.

He knows this, and so returns the bare blade of the razor
to its taped sleeve, instead wrings his only clothes out in the stream,
slings them over his pack to dry.

Because some things won’t strip away,
because tension and release are the silence that never was,
and because he still tries,

he shoulders his pack and walks in his nakedness,
earth padding his soles brown and gritty.

Maple-shadow and oak dapple his face, body, and pack.
White sarvis blossoms catch his shoulder.
Stick to his wet, chafing thighs.

Jonathan Travelstead served in the Air Force National Guard for six years as a firefighter and currently works as a full-time firefighter for the city of Murphysboro. Having finished his MFA at Southern Illinois University of Carbondale, he now works on an old dirt-bike he hopes will one day get him to the salt flats of Bolivia.