Allegheny Mountain Bowl
You can turn round and round and round and
always see mountains. Blue Knob, Wopsononock,
Brush, Davis and Lock. They usurp the sky
and conjure the seasons—summer’s heavy
wet sails, stars slung low like lanterns,
lily-thronged ditches down in the cove.
Gashed-ember October, leaves falling like ash.
Winter’s white bowl piles drift upon drift,
the air a thin gruel the men sip, waiting
for Blue Law noon. Their coats exhale wet wool
and wood smoke, their feet beat a work boot tattoo:
laid off, laid off, laid off—the mines mined out
and the Railroad dead, engines rusted to tracks.
Bitter cold at the root and bought too dear,
a hundred-year oak is two weeks’ cordwood,
a doe is meat roped to the hood of your car.
Cinders and salt and snow turned black
and always the need to make rent. But have you seen
the trees’ fierce diadems after the ice storms? And doesn’t spring
finally come, skies fledged soft as new life,
fields drenched in dew? The lark in the morning,
thrushes at dusk; sometimes there are barn owls.
Look at Wopsy and Brush going dark,
the sky’s beautiful bruise.
These mountains calve memory from twilight,
and some nuance you knew once like breath
comes back with the questions—why do mountains
come close when it rains, what line divides false
from true, in what precise place do the mountains
efface into sky—indigo, violet, then blue?