Poem – Journey to the Bus

The following poem is inspired and in the memory of Christopher Johnson McCandless. When I first read “Into the Wild”, I had never visited Alaska, but the idea dug its way into me. Subsequent reads and trying to look further and understand potential reasons behind his actions, helped to cement a mindset and extreme desire to be in Alaska. I will never know his actual reasons, or even follow his way of life, but I appreciate and have respect for what he did.


1.

Thinking to myself…

I remember awhile ago reading a book
A bus in the tundra, lying in rust
Away from the Stampede trail
I shiver, the wind taking a nasty turn

Around the last bend
Skeleton branches sway violently
Open a brief portal
Exposing what waits

Brilliant white roses lining
The rusted bus
Against a backdrop of orange
The sun burns

I pause…
Lay my gear upon a stump
Near the rear of the bus
Resting on my haunches, I gaze

So many thoughts, fears
Days spent harbored from freezing air
Shivering your last breathe
Arctic wind howling

Glass windows your last bastion of hope
Slowly fading away, the cold creeps
Finds you huddled in the corner
I cry a tear for you, I take a breath for you

2.

Travelers arrive in the outback for many reasons
Each of us has a past, some to forget, some to relive
Broken love to erase from our mind
Bleeding heart to heal

Many lives come and gone
Passing through on their way into the interior
Fading sky blue and snow white, painted 50 years before
We have all arrived at the bus, International Harvester 142

Words written and scrawled across the hull
Testimonials left to the wild
Last words in confession fading
Souls the world will never know

Reaching into my backpack
I move toward the fire pit
Hidden beneath newly fallen leaves
And residue weeks old

I light Indian incense
Swirling in jasmine and rose
Inhaling sweet essence
I close my eyes, picture faces and smiles

I gather dead wood from nearby
Plan to spend the evening here
I will finally write a letter to you
My reasons for leaving you

3.

The fire captures my eye, a glint
A very delicate dance
Balancing life and death
I lose myself within the flames

With roaring at my feet
Chill from my bones disappears
At last, I return to sleep
Where I have not visited in years

Wandering through mist
Vivid color encircles me
I scream out to you Joline
Silence answers me

In the distance
The flames grow, consume
Swaying in the breeze
They cast shadows evermore

I venture forth, effortlessly
Toward the light, calling me
Intensifying with each step
Closer I am, enshrouded in purple glow…

I witness a figure emerge from the flames
Intact, he flies, bursting forth unharmed…

I awake quickly, breath labored
Smoke and ash carried aloft
The breeze stirring few remaining leaves
Before winter sets in

And then I see him
A shadow through flame near the bus
Scraggly beard, unkempt, smiling
Christopher McCandless lives

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