I think of you for the first time
in 30 miles
when I feel it, the sting
of a Lone Star tick
clamped steadfastly
in my gut.

How long he had traversed my body
to arrive here–had survived
the Rock Creek rapids, the choking smoke
of three campfires,
had lurked while I bumbled
over way points, blowdowns.

Only now, on my first rest day,
after draining blisters and icing
swollen tendons, do I notice it,
wriggling in me–
flexing like a muscle.

Plucking it, I wonder how long
the swollen welt
will linger,
how many times I will dig them out
before I walk the trail