Always Touch The Rock

“Treatment originates outside you; healing comes from within.” – Andrew Weil

Teddyuscung high on a trail

Tedyuscung sits high on a trail

I wrote my first poem for a poetry class the same place I write many of my stories, running through the wilderness. One of the woman sat listening as I read about my rollick along the trails of the Wissahickon, and when I finished, she asked, “Is your poem about Tedyuscung?”

I didn’t know how to respond without sounding dumb, but took a chance and said, “The Indian?”

It turned out we were both talking about the sculpture on a cliff overlooking Wissahickon Valley Park. She went on to tell me a story about her son running away from home when he was a young boy and sleeping with Tedyuscung.

When I got home after class I did what any self-respecting poet would do–I Googled Teddy Uscum, and then Teddy Euscome, and then a dozen other variations of Teddy this and Teddy that, before I found Tedyuscung, a Lenape Indian Chief whose name means “as far as the wood’s edge.” Tedyuscung claimed to be King of the Delawares and emerged as the spokesman for the Indians of the Wyoming Valley where he lived.

Inscription on the bottom of sculpture

Inscription on the bottom of sculpture

When I researched further, I learned that it is local legend that this statue across from Forbidden Drive near Rex Avenue in Philadelphia is Tedyuscung. So I checked out the inscription on the bottom of the sculpture on my next run and found no evidence that it is in fact Tedyuscung. But urban legends are like folk tales, they are fun to tell and reveal something about ourselves.

There are many titles I can claim as my own–ex-welder, writer, author, distance runner. One title I can’t claim is poet. My poetry teacher told me that the title for my poem, “Discovery,” was ambiguous, could mean too many things. I learned that a poem title should speak to the poem, so I renamed it “Searching for Teddyuscung.” I have a lot to learn, but I’m getting it. The assignment was to write an outdoor poem with a surprise. I share with you my first poem, one I wrote while running the trails of the Wissahickon.

Searching for Tedyuscung

Up a slanted rock-strewn trail,

through thicket of green, burst

brilliant blue,

a lone oak splits

huge puffs of cotton,

Trail to the welcome unknown.


Around the bend

a towering rock,

Indian Rock

watches the valley below.


Touch the white rock,

always touch the rock.


Rustling leaves,

and then panting,

Black-splotched Dane,


climbs the trail.


Always a trail,

even where there are no trails.

Teddyuscung watching over Wissahickon Valley Park

Tedyuscung watching over Wissahickon Valley Park

Out on a ledge / off the trodden path / blaze your own trail / and take time to touch the rock / Always touch the rock.


About Jim Brennan

Jim is a Philadelphia-based writer, author, poet and editor for the Schuylkill Valley Journal.
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2 Responses to Always Touch The Rock

  1. mark says:

    Great poem Mr. Brennan, you made me miss Pennsylvania.


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