Here is the poem and afterwards a short commentary.
Tracks in the Sand
I turn to see my footprints in the sand
as wave after wave rolls in.
Now, here I stand, observing.
And though my footsteps be almost gone,
they remain, and perchance someone will follow.
And if someone sees my kneeprints
(suspecting I had stopped to pray)
would I have to tell them
that I'd only stopped along
the way to pick up shells?
Yet, even on our knees with tiny shells
there is great glory
and a doorway out of ourselves.
Puerto Rico, 1979
The poem is uncomplicated, but makes an attempt at being something more than the simple story it tells. My biggest problem with the poem as I share it here is the word "now" in the third line. At the time I used the word "now" to give the poem a stronger present-tense sense, but often such efforts to amplify actually have the opposite effect because in this case it interferes with the more important phrase that immediately follows, "here I stand," which is intended as a direct reference to Martin Luther's statement when he confronted the Roman Catholic powers, thus sparking the Reformation.
The narrator's stand in this poem is of a different character. It is as an observer.
While observing the path he has taken, is conscious of others, first as potential followers and simultaneously as critics. At the center of this is the question which remains with many of us to this day, how much do I have to explain myself to others? And in what ways do others help or interfere with our quest for self-understanding?
In the end, we see losing oneself in something of great beauty can be very comforting.