You bring a pad of paper, of course, and the good
pen because you imagine the hike will ask for your keenest
observation, and this you take to mean words
you will lay down on that even white acreage. And so you climb
in earnest without a water bottle like some fool thing,
toward summit, pushing your knees through the bush
and eying the blond earth forming the semblance of a path.
Even from here, you can imagine yourself at the higher elevation,
the scansion that view will allow, and the lines that will
river out of you, an ode you will craft out of this mountain,
and how you might – you dare say – turn it even more beautiful,
mythic with beauty. At the first quarter-mile,
you’re already clicking the metaphors off your tongue,
dreaming up better ways to say “green” and “wide” and “wild.”
The rock where you’re heading becomes a man,
a lover, God, beckoning you close, and soon
your fingers are itchy to transcribe the conversation.
There is a poem in your mouth, its scrawny beginnings,
and you push it down against your chest with every step and
breath by breath to make it flesh.
But if you were really here, you would know
you’re not looking where you should. For instance,
there are a thousand ways to break
your leg, and there are the bees to consider,
the flicker of rattlesnake, the ground sand-dry
and near avalanche at the steepest inclines.
There is the nature of this nature.
Three quarters of the way up a thirst encroaches
on your throat. It has become so hot outside,
breezeless, the brush leaving thistly markings on your ankles.
The paper moistens and droops in your sweaty hand,
the pen slips to the ground, and so do you,
landing on the plateau from which the summit
flirts and cajoles. In front of you,
a trail of ants soldiers back and forth,
carrying invisible rations.
You don’t know about ants, if these are the ones
that will level with you with one bite
or simply industrious vegetarians. No matter.
They are ignoring you. You could sit here as long as you like,
eavesdropping. Various birds are circling – you don’t know
their names, but you know, at least, they are birds.
Maybe that is all that’s required, to recognize
what you’re looking at, because your mind is a trickle, now,
slow as summer noon. The poem slips out, unseen,
from your teeth. The word for wild is “wild,”
and the trees below are continent enough.
There can be no more green to this green.
If you could just sit here,
watching them move as they move,
still as they still, breathing your wordless breaths
until your lungs understand, you will have it.
This is the poem.