As I gain the trail to Kennedy Ridge, my mind stops chattering and suddenly I'm a poet again, my heart pumping the color of a Martian's aqueous dreams.

An elderly man strolls past me leaning
on a California black oak cane.
"I never knew where this road went," he says.
"How long have you lived here?"
"Fifty-eight years."
We both laugh, and his dog marks the spot.

Red dust and tire tracks struggle up the path
with Smokey the Bear, who is no longer here.

On the way home, I stop at a rock hidden
from the road, on which is painted,
           
"Center of the Universe."

I sit down
and look
            around.