A Hard Climb
The frill of trees jig their lady skirts
about their knees, buckling
under the weight of the wind’s hard approach.
When we exhale, our breaths dangle,
rearranging syllables and accents
the Yanks still claim we carry.
The clouds recoil in pieces of time;
inch by inch they scud across the sky,
downy spools drawing in their lines.
The black hills ball against the blue,
splash their painted trees, golden
glowing corridors to wander through.
Dropped leaves assemble into cobblestones
of amber and scarlet upon the path,
carpeting the gnarled and bulging roots
like the blue swollen veins in an old man’s hand.
The boughs rattle when we near,
scramble brittle flakes about
like a shaken globe of snow.
Sequestered birds, plump from the summer’s binge,
weigh down the perch of each branch and twig.
It’s a hard climb up these knuckles of rock;
the stone and spine of earth create a natural stair;
moss and frosted lichen cushion our path
tramped by those who passed through here,
leaning on sticks cracked off the edge
of fallen logs. Other people scatter like ants
at our approach; everyone’s come to find a reflective solitude.
At the summit we finally see
the river we couldn’t find at first;
having lost our way we decided
to climb the escarpment instead.
Laundry laps in the wind,
dangling and dancing on its hinge;
each farm has a patched quilt plot;
the remnants from the last harvest,
the beans and pumpkins,
have already been left out
in the sun to rot.
Gaunt and troubled sunflowers
flank the gardens;
brown heavy heads droop
as though in prayer—
they already know they are dying.
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