At Some Elevation
The North Pack Monadnock cairn
poses in stolid, weathered calm.
Spruce-growth obstructs the view.
Years ago, I could look far west
from here and trace the highway
worming over a complacency
of panoramic contour and mist
bourgeois enough for Europe.
But now only a narrow prospect
slots in a crease in the tree-line.
Crows racket in the foliage.
Their cries sound like machinery
gone bad. The weave of spruce
repels the persistent wind.
Except where the trail hacks through,
it’s a solid mesh of will-to-live.
Some geological deity
placed this mountain just where needed
to rough and tease the landscape.
That same deity placed the first stone
on the cairn. Then Thoreau arrived
and placed another. In the dark,
those stones engendered more stones,
and now the cairn is breathing
like the tomb of a Pharaoh yet
to be looted. I look at myself,
sweaty and rumpled from climbing,
and pity the creature I dragged
so heavily up the rocky trail,
risking bone-breaks on icy smears
black against the dominant gray.
I’d like to stay all night and watch
the moon tickle across the spruce-tops,
but I’d get so hungry and lonely
that when the cairn rustled to life
I’d hardly notice. And when its bulk
poured over me I’d think rain
had come to refresh and crush me
with absolute and painless dark.
Editor’s Note: The startling sonic imagery of this poem (“machinery // gone bad”) highlights the similes and metaphors beautifully.