A poem about two people in a tent

Posted by


Cedar River tent site with remains of old wood stove*

Setting up camp each night is like praying
for what we need and then getting it. When it is time
to shelter, I grab tent poles from my pack.
When it is time to eat, we pry the lid off
the bear canister with a knife and rummage through it.
When we are thirsty, we filter water by the bagful,
and every evening, the light from headlamps
surrounds us. Of course, we have provided
our own answers to these prayers, but
do allow a certain amount of faith:
we know we can’t carry everything. Like grief,

for example. There is no room for grief.
We arrive at the Cedar River tent site at the end
of a 16-mile day, willing to call any place home,
to accept as enough the simple grace of shedding
our 35-pound packs. But there’s more: the river
soothes swollen feet. The sound of moving water tells us
there’s plenty of time. And while we eat supper
and drink wine from a box, the fire’s warmth

is directed toward us by a metal panel
from an old wood stove. Though we are deep in
these woods, others have also occupied this place.
And stayed far longer. We have a lot more walking
to do, but tonight when I lie down to sleep
next to you, I will forget the difficulty,
begin to believe what we are
covering is hallowed ground. My body,

tired from so much, lets closeness be easy
for once. Necessary, even. The narrow tent’s
thin fabric shaping us into one creature aware
of, but not concerned about, how the night’s cold
wet nose presses against the canvas,
the darkness a beast that always wants in.

* * *


This poem (draft) is quite a bit more gentle — and certainly more sentimental — than is normal for me. Today, apparently, the muse has a fondness for camping. You can read more here about why I’m posting poems online again and find the growing collection of them here.

* * *

* “Cedar River tent site with remains of old wood stove” is the official description of the location where we set up camp this night, 66.86 miles into our hike on the Northville Placid Trail. It’s along the Piseco to West Canada Lakes region of the trail. My significant other and I completed a northbound thru-hike of the 140-mile trail between August 26 – September 4. The top photo is the view from the campsite, and the other photo shows the view from a log where I sat in my white/black/paisley sleeping pants trying to get warm and dry next to what remains of the wood stove.


      1. & specific to THIS poem: i’m not so sure about the ending. i enjoy it, but it feels like a worn image/idea to me. expected or something. i’d appreciate any thoughts anyone has about it. need something more surprising if i want to revise?

  1. You’re right about the ending: cute but could be stronger/more surprising. I’m just impressed that you made room in your packs for wine, though. Priorities!

  2. Very nice. I love the NPT. I am happy you enjoyed it as well. That tent site is one of the spots where the NPT used to cross the Cedar River years ago, before it was rerouted along the Lamphere Ridge.

Leave a Reply