Authors and Poets
Authors and Poets

Photos used with permission from the Academy of American Poets

Last updated:
April 19, 2018
Lori M. Cameron, editor

Confession – Pam McAllister

I like the word “wilderness”
much more than the actual experience of it.

In our comfortable pews, we sing songs
about the lonely courage in the wilderness,
imagine ourselves tested by heartache and hardship.
We imagine survival and triumph.
Ah, wilderness.

The word itself is dramatic,
conjuring a landscape both stark and appealing —
ten shades of gray and ash,
a winter sky,
a circling hawk.
There is the hint of something wild in the word,
a suggestion of danger and despair,
briars and thorns,
the torment of facing one’s temptation,
and the relief of resisting it.

But the actual experience of wilderness is bleak and cold.
It stretches forever, like days in a nursing home
or on death row or in a dream-crushing small town.
It is the misery of being misunderstood by a friend,
the despondency of an unwanted child,
the despair of an abandoned parent.
It is suffocating in its sameness.
It is empty, bland, and colorless.

And who, I ask, wants to wander
through a changeless landscape
without the comfort of a full palate of colors
and their sumptuous, sensuous names—
crimson, indigo, sage, cinnamon,
lavender, periwinkle, amber spice,
and robin’s egg blue?

Not I. Not I.

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