OctPoWriMo Day 28: “It Levels Off Up Ahead”

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Hello, and welcome to OctPoWriMo, Day Twenty-Eight!

What’s OctPoWriMo, you ask? Well, it’s a whole month of poetic creation – 31 poems in 31 days. It’s the creative baby of Morgan Dragonwillow and Julie Jordan Scott.

This year, I’ve followed many of the prompts, and had the double joy of play and discovery…

I hope you’ll stop by, settle in, and find a little bit of magic here!

Today’s prompt was to write a poem about past loves, or the beginning of love, and we were given the following prompts:

Word Prompts:






Feeling Words:






I began each stanza of this free verse with one of the word prompts. I shifted the order a bit to fit the flow of the poem and our journey.

The poem is based on a hike we took early in our marriage, when our “only child” was a four-month old puppy named Bunko, and we had no idea what life held in store for us…

The trail was steeper than we thought it would be, and, all during the three-mile hike, my Accomplice in Mischief kept saying, “It’ll level off up ahead….”

It’s become a joke, between us, when life gets tricky and things don’t seem to be going our way…

Maybe that’s our secret – that we have inside jokes, stories, and journeys that we share – the light and the shadow.

Lava Lake – see that mountain off to the left? That’s the trail…never did level off.

It Levels Off Up Ahead”

“It levels off up ahead,” you said,

As we hiked toward Lava Lake

Love can be like that trail,

Winding up and up

Strenuous, taxing,

Fraught with dangers

Like the bears

In the Montana wilds

The obstacles and the

Rough places of life.


Bliss is the thing we expect, maybe

When we give ourselves over to love

What we want is the glory

Consuming everything but

Each other

Those long wild nights

When it’s lovemaking

And talking

And touching

And more touching

More talking

And a lot more

Making love.


Blinded by emotion

By hope and raw desire

Hunger and need

And the dreams

That wrap us round

Tighter and tighter

Cocooning us in

A webbing of unity

With no room left

For the world beyond

Or the future

Or even



Honeymoon fights

As reality solidifies

I want to go to the

Aquarium – you don’t

We fight, I cry, you win

Later, in Kingman AZ

Reality a vise, a leghold trap

teeth at my throat

I left the car, walked out

Nighttime desert

Scorches with truth

Hot and relentless

In every heated breath

“I can’t believe

I married you!”

Words sharper than

Agave thorns.


Euphoria is a bubble

A cloud a wave

Something that ebbs

And rises anew

Like switchbacks, and

the steep broken path

Up the side of a


Leading to the

Treasure of a

Hidden blue lake

A place to rest and renew

But the path winds up, still

It never did level off up ahead

Not on that trip anyway

And we chose not to climb

Higher that day, but to

Find peace with our descent

And delve the lower places

Within and between us.


Annoyed too often and for too long

A seething lava pit beneath

The surface of our love

And our shared lives

Boiling over like a geyser

Rumbling and rending

Poisoning the waters

Upheaval at the roots

Like a fallen sequoia

Or Sedona’s red rocks

The schisms and rifts

Whenever we didn’t



Bewildered by new identity

Mommy and Daddy – who, us?

To suddenly be the ones

Responsible for his life

His health his laughter

And far too many early tears

Frustrations, rages, his and ours

The trips and stumbles

along the path

Many unseen dangers

Lurking like Montana bears

Hidden by glacial boulders

Shadows in the wild places

In the world, in ourselves

Jagged edges that threaten

This fragile being, our son

Our love blended and grew

Glowing in baby blue eyes

Eyes fixed on us.


Grief grabs us, squeezes, clenches

You hold our secondborn so gently

As the monitors slow, ssllooww


You hold him for another hour

Squeezing and clenching

Shock of sorrow

Piercing reality

This isn’t a level place

This is trauma, soul deep

Black clouds, gaping void

Empty clothes, empty crib

Empty arms, empty womb

We cling together and

Fill what we can.


Joy isn’t always held in

Those leveling off spots

It’s like the sudden grin

Our daughter’s dancing eyes

Child born from tragedy

Force of nature

Like that climbing path

So long ago

Joy is a flower



And not really the point

Of this hike, this life

Lived together

It’s the rainbow

The squeals of laughter

The moments in firelight

In desert mountains

In caves and scuba gear

Touch and taste of you

Quickening my heart

Binding me tighter with

Spidersilk webbing

Tensile strength and



It’s always been

About the


OctPoWriMo’s A Journey!

Lone Star Geyser with Rainbow, Yellowsstone National Park, WY.


  1. I confess, I never read this when you first posted it… Octobers blur. But I’m very glad to have seen it now, even if I can’t say anything more about it than what everyone else did. It is… encompassing.

    Or, as Dan and I used to say when we were more into hiking: “It’s amazing how much bigger of a hill seems to hide just beyond the next rise–wanna bet we’ll find another one if we climb that too?” It was not only to see where we’d come from, but how very much more of a ways we had yet to go….

  2. I’m not sure there are words to adequately express how I felt reading this poem. Thank you for sharing. ❤

  3. So beautiful, Shan Jeniah. Your words brought tears to my eyes. You really captured the ups and downs of married life–the moments of peace and bliss, the fights, the sad moments you weather together. Loved it!

    • It’s been quite a life, so far…

      I’m glad to be sharing it with this man, because, although I don’t mention him much on account of his natural shyness, he is wound up deep in my soul….a fact for which I am profoundly grateful1

    • I’m so glad you shared your experience of the poem. I was hoping it would feel something like that trail did, that day…and like the rise and fall of a loving but imperfect union, over time and life…

      And I wanted it to be a bit of a love poem, too….

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