Oops

The mountains saw God. And oops.
Their hair turned white. Parted nice and neat
in between full wavering ridgelines combed over into neat clean
albeit dusty looking landscaping. Streaks of dark where evergreen
keeps the whole scene dirtier and salt and peppered. Bovines speckled
like dandruff and the hillside is framed in farmhouses for ears.

Muddy overflowing creeks at the bottoms of powder white mountains.

Electrified, traumatized by the divine presence
streaked white lightning like a skunk’s sour complexion.
Smell it from a corpse on the side of the twisted mountain spine.
Conscious thoughts in cars slow one by one slink up along connecting
traffic circles and overlapping highway junctions to thoroughfares down around
the hips to the mind. Some house in a row of them. This one is mine. My mind.

When it believes it perceives a thing it fails to describe.
A jolt of spirit blown white lights the burning penetrating radioactive kind.
Snow. High of sixty yesterday. Tonight. Oops. Low of nineteen. God.

Is not all these mountains have seen.

Below the Road

The river always wanted to climb a mountain. Watch it. Rising higher. Growing whiter. Wilder. Spitting out tree trunks roots still attached. Streams and creeks and snaking roadway gutters running fast as they can to get down off the mountain. Sweating. Soiled. Stumbling several steps, unstoppable. Making a run on the banks. The river wants to take its money and run. It wants to climb a mountain. So it eats them. Inch by mile etched furrows that segment land masses and imperfectly complete them. One side to the other. Between ridges. The irony to write here how rivers are like bridges. How often roads run along them. Set their course on them. Bows up all proud in the summer brown shoulders and swallowing boulders reaches out a hand, and rivers and roads will dance. All twisted tightly together in and throughout the sharp, river etched mountains of southwest Virginia. But when the music has ended, there are places the road must go where the river can not follow. And there are places where the road can not stand it any longer, and takes off headlong down the mountain after it. The two are tied together, linked, but it would be a mistake to take it as indication of similarity. The river always wanted to be a mountain. It is always eating rocks and mud and trees and things.
But every road is already a river.
Anyone who has ever built a road or trail knows, or even just looked close.

It’s like my grandfather would say.
Don’t build a house below the road.

My Window

Lake all pukey green.

Once white teeth stained yellow by its acidic churning.

Sour-looking. Running the wrong way. This lake.

Is a mask set on top of a river. By the TVA.

This lake cost a lot of people their homes.

Dented ridges climb the other side then taper down into Damascus.

America is a crapshoot for naming things.

White can be seen through trees against mountain scalp like dandruff.

Undisturbed beneath thinning hair. Itchy-looking.

Dry cold makes a wet nose and specks of dust out of falling snow.

Virginia. Old girl. I have decided not to say it.

Wind. Sucking at the windowsill. Battling doors.

Carrying the recyclables all across the yard.

Bombastic voices on the television warn us ‘stay indoors’.

Polar Vortex. Man wears a rolex. Catches light

point out Saltville. Bristol. Then Wytheville.

Only flurries, near Hillsville. Blue eyes pierce.

Stared into camera two.

May as well give his ‘back to you’.

She. Muted. Tells about lost and found children.

Geese bowl over one another down by green water.

White birds stalk yellow waves. Winter wind.

Pushes the river the wrong way. Backward.

Black birds beat wings against the weather.

Took them ten minutes to clear my window.

Easy as a bullet

There are mountains behind those mountains. Behind those clouds.
On the other side of that rippled river. The sun is set to be delivered.
Every day not Sunday. Ironically. Ironclad igneous and soil.
Beyond a wall of water vapor. Fish in slivers still at the warm belly bottom
not feeding. Not needing. Water kneaded. In the translucent finger grips of wind.
Mountains that we know are there. Hidden, like eyes behind long hair. Obscured.
Like the tilt of the earth. Like all flying birds.
Outer space and stars and satellites shot at like skeet by shotgun eyes.
Twelve gaze. Double barrel. Vision. If I can see it, I can behold it.
Fire on distance and watch limp geese drop like slick dishes shattered to the tiled floor.

The word know.
The word no.
And mountains.
That can’t be seen.
Veiled by what morning missed and hidden behind that obstacle we call distance.
We believe. There is more left to see.
That it can be overcome.
By binoculars. By walking feet. By eyes.

Easy as a bullet from a gun.

Or something

And why is the sky so often that color?
Like a cross between tomato and pumpkin or something.
Is it city lights blended into cloud laden snow choked night.
Or the moon. Low. Around six thirty. I hope.
Might surprise me just how bright it is still this early.
At the very edge of the Tug Hill Plateau.
Tugged along hundreds of miles
and laid heavy into rest right here.

At the western edge of Adirondacks.

Fizzled out and given away a long time ago
to the broken banks of the lucrative Ontario.
Thick. Weighted. Snow. Clouds.
Hold on to color.
Could be from anywhere.
Could be light left behind by yesterday.

Still stirring
in the swollen bellies
of yesterday’s snow.

Surprised Still

Perched like an eagle on top of a ski hill.
Who would not have thought.
Eight hundred miles of mountains.
Would lead to here.

This dry little white one.
No more than a hill. Still.

Paid minimum wage to watch kids climb like boomerangs
come twirling throwing snow back to be whipped again.
Scarves hiding grins.
Nobody wins.
Nobody really has a gender.
Or an agenda.
Or anything better to do. Clearly.
Just surprised still at gravity.
Bolting fiberglass boards to boots.

Amused. When mountains for two months
leads to a mountain for two months.

As if it ever could have happened.
Any other way.
And still been mine.

 

 

Special Sort of Parachute

What I want to say here today is about how we build towns in low places.
Now I don’t mean lowly, or head stooped, or humbled. I am talking altitude.
Down between the bases of barriers. Mountains. Like rivers.
We even seem to dig valleys deeper.
So everytime I come close to town I am walking down.
It strikes me in this moment that this is not a rare
or new or unusual instinct for a creature to have.
In fact, going over the historical math, we, as a species,
have a longstanding history of stacking lives up high in low places.
So it makes sense so much of our myths are full with fear of floods.
Waters rising. Of frantically fleeing above.
And I want to say the answer today is not a bigger boat.
Or a taller tower, higher stacked along quartz clay barriers.

It’s simpler than that.
So simple in fact.
It fits in a backpack.

Hanging from the dented shoulders of just about every person
I’ve met and shared space with on an average hiking day.
A little food. A liter of water or two. And some shelter.
A sort of parachute to carry you once you abandon the plane.
Climb away from the town we built up tall in a low down place.

We are intended to fear floods the rest of our lives
for never following mountains to their full height.
And see, even then, land sandwiched by sea.

What I want to say here today.
I don’t believe a flood could swallow this place any more than oceans already have.
I want to reconsider how many myths were written by people who only build in valleys.
Never lived out of a backpack. Clearly haven’t climbed high enough to know
there are places in this sort of place that will never be touched by floods.
If you don’t believe me, you should go. Spend some time with mountains.
Just be warned. After a month or so,
you may have to find new things to be afraid of.

Stirring poetry into cream

Clouds brush rock mounds
tree-covered wooden spoons
stirring soft peach into off white cream.
Melting mountains like butter in a microwave.
Puddled lakes lick like rivers in bowl bottoms.
Catching it like a womb.
Investing it in an egg.
Where water will divide and multiply and sprawl across
whole tables wiggling fingers into earth’s soft butter.
Soaked through fungal sponges stretched clear to the other side.
Cloudy. Milky. Grey with a hint of steel betrayal.
Blue masked and charcoal angled.
And now there are less rock mounds
tree-covered, than before.
Whole milk mountains.
Valley dried sour white rings.
Waking up to rain pouring in the morning.
Stirring it into poetry like cream.