Today I am back on Porter's mountain
with Sam who, undaunted by the climb, waits
farther up, as I sweat-soaked and gasping
sit on one of the large lichen-dappled
rocks jutting like gravestones from this leaf
carpeted mountain. I stumbled to the stream,
kneel, and with cupped hands scoop the cold water
to my parched lips. Refreshed, I climb up
to where Sam sits on a poplar felled by last
winter's ice storm and eye the clouds that have
suddenly bunched into tight flocks upon
a graying field. In the '40s, the dead trees
were mostly chestnuts, casualties of the
blight of '17, and though folks lamented
the loss, they found the chestnut split easily
and burned clean and could be found stacked neatly
on back porches by fall's first freeze. But that
was then. A sudden breeze rustles the leaves
overhead and I shiver, aware that I am
now a survivor between two shorelines.
To what then had I aspired? Had I what
was required? What has since transpired?
Why do I suddenly feel as if I were
nothing more than unclaimed flotsam upon
a raging sea? Had the old man been right
all along? Is the here and now all there is?
All that has ever been? I look at Sam;
he is studying the sky. Is he aware
of the impermanence of blood and bone?
Mr. Letcher had often bragged that he could
'whup any man on this mountain 'cep'n
Will St. Clair. Nur could do nothin' with Will.'
What, if not muscle, validates our once
having been? A yellow leaf floats gently,
is caught in an eddy, swirls--is shot up
and over several rocks that form a dam,
is caught again, struggles, breaks free; then is
flung down into yet another whirlpool
where the cycle is repeated. I'll help
it on its way, I thought, and prodded it
with a stick. It shivered, leapt. What unseen
hand guides this lone leaf on its predetermined
course? How many millions of leaves have floated
on this stream? Other streams? Are floating? Will float
down countless mountain streams? A shadow falls.
Sam stands near. "We've a mountain to climb." His voice,
barely audible in the rising wind.
I look for the yellow leaf: it is gone.
© Rod (AMPAW@aol.com)