Saturday, September 30, 2006

221. The Other Side Of The Mountain - David Wagoner

To walk downhill you must lean partially backwards,
Heels digging in,
While your body gets more help than it can use
In following directions––
Because it's possible simply to fall down
The way you're going
Instead of climbing against it. The baffling dead-ends
Of traveling upward
Are turned around now, their openings leading down
To the land you promised
Yourself, beyond box canyons and blind draws.
They branch repeatedly,
But the direction you choose should be as easy to take
As your right hand.
The sky is a constant; even its variables
Like cirrus and cumulus
Will cancel each other out in a rough balance,
Taking turns at weather.
The wind may bluff and bluster and cut corners
Or skip a whole valley,
But eventually it has nothing to do with you,
Not even when it throws
The dust of your own country in your eyes.
At dawn, at darkness,
The sun will be here or there, full-face, rear-view;
It evens out in the end.
You must keep your goal in mind as clear as day
Though it doesn't matter
What you may think it looks like: second-sight
Is simply perseverance;
And getting there from here is a set of stages
Demanding candle-power,
Foot-pounds and simple levers, thirst and hunger.
Signposts are seasonal
And not forensic: one end may come to a point
And the other be indented,
But the words will be gone, and the rusty earth and air
Will have eaten the pole and nails.
You must take time to notice what grows on rocks
Or squeezes between them––
The gnawing lichen, bone-weed and thorny scrub––
All hanging tough
And gnarling for elbow room or squatters' rights.
These are the straighteners,
The levellers at work on the thick and crooked:
Some distant species
Will find the world made flat by the likes of these.
You must do your bit
by scuffing downhill heel-first on behalf of erosion,
For the sake of another time
When the mountains are made plain and anyone standing
Can see them from there
Without half-trying. When your shoes are out of step
And your clothes are a burden
And you feel bone-tired, sit down and look around.
You're there. No matter what
You had in mind as a proper circumstance,
You've come to it at last:
A rock-strewn slope from which you have a view
Of a further rock-strewn slope.
You can pick up dust in your hand and let it fall.
The place is real.
You can bite a grass-stem, look, take a deep breath
And, naturally, let it go.

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