Mile 11—

Leaving Michigan Ditch Aid

Steller’s jay calling shook shook shook high in the ponderosa pine, runners ahead climbing the long rock-washed hill like smoke from a mine. There is no mine, here. Sixteen hours from now my knees will fill with stars, but there is only this hill, here, now, this breath coming more jagged than it should just one aid station into this run. A sign on my left—What do Hawaiians build their houses out of ? A few minutes farther up the hill, the answer—Lei-gos. Like smoke from a mine, if smoke were made of white bodies all. My stomach turns, too early. Aid station down below, the volunteers dressed in discount-store grass skirts and leis. Not like this. Steller’s jay calls again, again, answered by another, flash of blue and black in the trees. Shook shook shook shook shook. I still hear the woman from miles ago asking What’s a Ute, I still see the volunteers dancing below. My palms streaked gray from the first climb. Lei-gos. The trail steepens. Shook shook shook. One jay watches me. All these names only go so far. There is no mine, here. There is no me, here. Just a wash. These hands push me upright, reach for a door. A jay laughs wheeee-pop wheee-pop. The door closes. Perhaps it never existed. Blue feathers up the hill these feet continue to climb.

Lucien Darjeun Meadows was born in Virginia and raised in West Virginia to a family of English, German, and Cherokee descent. He has received fellowships and awards from the Academy of American Poets, American Alliance of Museums, and National Association for Interpretation. Past Shenandoah contributor and the author of In the Hands of the River (Hub City Press, 2022), Lucien is currently a PhD candidate, volunteer ranger assistant, and ultramarathon runner in northern Colorado.