The Handshake

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The Handshake

Can you see a narrow path, just wide enough for one
where two men chanced upon each other a long time ago?
In the morning glory, witnessed by a watchful sun—
did they stop and stare and wonder, friend or foe?

Can you hear the roaring silence of unbridled fear
louder than the wails of most destructive storm?
When men came face-to-face, blood pounding in the ear—
Eyes wild for escape, sensing death’s true form? 
Can you feel the breath of danger cold upon your face,
and hair upon your neck bristling to attention?
Were two molded statues, crafted from God’s race—
rooted as the oak or maple, actions still undone?   

Can you see the younger of the two, stalwart as could be, 
his empty palms extended, no killing blade secret there?
Was hatred harbored in his heart, more difficult to see—
or reflected in his eyes as youthful courage rare? 

Can you hear the other man, older yes, and tall and lean,
notch mute arrow and string his deadly bow?
Was language infant then, the world still raw and mean—
that no words passed between them, oh so long ago?

Can you feel a seething warmth lick across your skin, 
a glistening swath where death simmers hot and near?
Were words so few that mere actions cradled sin—
and in your throat you stifle the choking grip of fear?

Can you see a selfish path where brave men often kill,
and must in desperate haste decide another’s fate?
Do you see a fiery blacksmith’s forge, hearts upon the anvil—
shaping threatened lives, facing heaven’s yawning gate?

Can you feel survival’s strain amid death’s insistent call,
when the one with most to lose, smiled and stepped aside?
Can you feel the forest’s breath release a sigh for all—  
where two men chose civility over instinct to abide? 

Can you see a narrow path where many came to walk,
and a pleasant widening grew, and many paused to talk?
Where empty hands were grasped to show no harm was meant—
and where a wordless truce between two men was heaven sent?

. . . j 
from the Childhood Remedy and Other Such collection

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