But what do you do when a walk
around the neighborhood means
you might commit mass murder in mere minutes?
I look down, notice a beetle hunting for a meal.
A worm wriggles in desperation for the moisture of the soil,
or a roly-poly scurries across my path.
I adjust to make sure my foot doesn’t crush.
I want to look up, bathe in the rich colors of the trees
that provide the oxygen I breathe,
appreciate the clouds that give gentle shelter from the sun,
or the horizon that offers perspective
and allows my eyes to rest.
My walks are a balancing act.
I gaze up to accept what has been bestowed,
shift back down to make sure I’m not taking.
Lauren Oertel is a community organizer covering Texas and New Mexico for a nationwide nonprofit that works on voting rights, policy advocacy, elections, and antiracism. Her work has been published in The Ravens Perch, Evening Street Review, and The Sun Magazine. She won first prize in the 2021 MONO.Fiction poetry competition and was a winner of the 2022 Writer's Digest short story contest, as well as the 2022 Mendocino Coast Writers' Conference poetry contest. She lives in Austin, Texas, with her partner Orlando and their tuxedo cat Apollonia.