by: carolyn c. rice

It’s been too long since I’ve been lost.
I don’t mean the common or mall variety of lost,
though I do that too.
I don’t mean the scary nighttime Oh my God I’m running out of gas kind of lost,
though I do that too.
I don’t even mean the middle of the night in my own house lost.
No, I mean a full of myself lost,
a secret mischief lost,
an I can do anything hide and watch me lost.
Myself, lost and found.

I mean the kind of lost I was in New York City on foot
when I went out the wrong exit of the Museum of Modern Art,
wandered clueless as a cloud, and ran right smack dab into a Shoe Museum.
A SHOE museum!
Fifteenth Century Venetian noblewoman’s shoes,
medieval peasant clogs,
Judy Garland’s Wizard of Oz slipper.
You could have a fit a shoe in my smile.

I drove down to New Orleans for the King Tut exhibit.
I got lost.
Round and round humid, shady streets,
past wrought-iron balconies and bougainvillea,
back and forth on the bridge over Lake Ponchartrain,
until the warm wet air blowing in my car window,
spicy as Cajun sausage,
smelling of mildew, oil refineries, and heated swamp,
became familiar again,
scents of childhood.

I flew to Holland for my sister’s wedding.
After the wedding I took a train to Amsterdam.
I ended up in The Hague.
I met three college students
who took me to the Madurodam,
through village streets no wider than my shoe,
by church steeples no high than my knee,
alongside a solemn procession of altar boys, Lilliputians.

On the island of Hydra in the Saronic Gulf off the cost of Greece,
only a few steeply-climbing streets and one long dusty road.
I got lost anyway.
Flame-blue sky pressing the noonday heat onto the white stone walls.
Houses, their bright-painted windows tight-shuttered,
keeping out the sun and strangers.
I followed a dog
to the fish market.
Bins of squid, lobster, shrimp,
pans of whole anchovies,
pushcart grill, man cooking octopus,
tiny tables filled with men drinking ouzo
who helped me get back to the ship.

My straight-arrow cousin from Texas came to visit me.
I took her to Asheville, and, of course,
I got lost.
She was outraged.
She needed guidebooks, compass, maps,
paper security,
blue and red lines weaving a safety net,
pathfinders to follow down a narrow, hard-paved road.
She was so angry that I let her drive my new car.
She drove it backwards down a freeway entry ramp.

I do use guidebooks to plan my treks,
each historic site safe recorded on my written plan.
But … I turn the wrong way at a corner.
I see an alleyway, a gate, a door.
I find an old woman sitting on her doorstep making lace,
her gnarled fingers moving swift as swallows’ flight.
Her wise old eyes nested in wrinkles watch me watching her.
Spindles, stacks of slender pylons, frame her lap.
Wings of fine threads, secured to a solid body of pins
on a runway of red and blue cloth.
Above, clouds, constellations of lace.

One day soon I will find myself again
down an unexplored street, driving
along an unknown highway, a sojourner
beneath unfamiliar skies, a striver struggling
up a steep hill and across the wide ocean,
even in and around my own home place, an explorer.
Somewhere in this strange and magical universe,
I will be lost again.


“Lost” first appeared in Earth’s Daughters.