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At the Mountain Café

The Mountain Café

Come with me to a time
when a stone was a stone
and light was still light and
a key not rubbed
through a slot
but buried in
inner workings
still mysterious, still
magic. Come.

Before us, a mountain,
buds on trees,
clams in the shallows.
In winter, ice.

We will walk (there
is no other way)
and here, partway up,
an inn: two
wood stools and a table
dewy under an arbor
of rose bramble,
an old woman with a pie.

How can she make it work, you ask, here on the mountain?

A cow. Chickens. Rhubarb
from the fencerow now.
Later peaches, apples, jam
when all else is gone.
Eggs traded for milled grains,
and us passing with
our sad coins.

When we are rested, filled, we
climb higher
still, stopping
only for grand scenes of
where we have been
opening below us
through the trees.

At the top, we are
used up, still panting, still
expecting
more buds, more
wet stones, ice
in the shadows
gleaming, sonic
treasures everywhere.
There is light
still. There is
light.

The Woman at the Mountain Café

Was a time
jolly happy
the son in
silver light snacking
on butterbread licking
red fruit from his fingers the
doctor’s wife cooing over her beer
leaning trying to bus his chin. The hours
passed
in cool bursts punched
with fresh light until
blue fell.
Was a time
happy jolly
blue night silver day
all fresh
jolly happy
cooing son
red fingers
men grabbing
foam from their mustaches
speaking camels and oranges
filling their mouths with
words.

In the Woods

woods behind woods
bush below bush
further in
red fruit: mull and dew
berries. birds. be
hind are monsters.
in a clearing
animal stuff
clotted with but
terflies. a thin
green snake orbits
a twig. beside
it, empty, its
ghostself, compleat.

Beyond the woods
light fear mother
forgotten, no
sour beery
smells no jolly
talk or whisker
kisses, only
peppery goodness
in the cold light.

Every Day the World Gets Larger

Every day I make new edges: Don’t go
near the cow’s pen, I tell him. Don’t go
where I can’t see you playing. Don’t go

in the woods, where monsters breed. Don’t go
up to see all below, where all can see
you (with, perhaps, some monstrous passion
for such as you). Don’t give your kisses lightly.

Don’t go far. If I could wish it real, you
would be like me now, picking clams, netting
fish, milking good Solitude in her pen.
No need for the markets to make my pies.
Ignorant of camels, casinos, it’s true, and
of dry lands some call heaven. But
happy.

One Winter Was Hot on the Mountain

One winter was hot on the mountain. Icy
water burst from its stones, the woods
combusted into buds before their time,
green pillowed up from the snow, and high

up, past the trees, the heat unburied
a monster, feigning a man, asleep: eyes
like clams, mouth open, drinking sunlight.
I tempted it with my stick, fingered its gums

and brown teeth to make it bite. But
it lay there, content as a king. I would have
tried more, but it kept beneath the black
ice but for one long orange arm, the skin

cancerous as an old book printed with monster
longings in blueblack paint. I packed
stones into its mouth; still it lay there,
its one hand grabbing nothing, no one,

just something lost now. I would have cabled
it free, but it was sealed in the mountain, and
when the pall plunged upon us, I went home.
That night came a grizzle of polar cold and

snow and ice and, when I went back, it was
gone. That one, at least, will breed no more,
its populations swallowed in stone and ice,
crushed with the dinosaurs, its comments kept.

Girls

Once, two—without men—steered off the mountain way. To relieve
themselves, I wished, but they went on through the woods and
then, coming to water, distributed colors on the stones and
plunged in. I neared them through the woods and, to deceive
them while they cooed and sprayed like birds, gathered up the colors
and crushed them beneath a stone. I treated myself, then,
to their enjoyment, their blue lips and slim silvery arms. Then,
all at once, they unplunged themselves and grabbed each other,
piping and echoing. One, a mystik surely, came then soundless
toward me, while the other still harped and gulped and then
grabbed herself. The one neared me, then wheeled away, then
orbited back to her companion. So it went, till blackness
eclipsed then swallowed their forms, leaving me to pick my way down
alone, imagining their descent, so, into the light-filled town.

Here’s What Happens If You Lose Your Clothes on a Mountain

We kept to the woods
going down, then triangled
house corner by house corner
home. Only moon and planets
noticed, and others’ suns,
and the Turk in the station
doorway. The house
was dark—everyone
in bed. What a relief! It was
a Trojan welcome, though.
Inside, our brothers burst
from the furniture, howling,
swirling axes and frypans and
hammers. Bea grabbed herself
like an artwork and howled too,
and the brothers, finding no one
else to cut or club or threaten,
loosed their rage on us,
with the usual outcome:
Bea rolled into a ball of pain
and I, unstopped—and, this time,
unclothed—stepped past them,
bluffing unconcern. They couldn’t
look, just gulped and returned
to their rooms. So, we too went
to our bed, Bea to tongue her
fingers and I to dream
of giants and monsters
proud on their mountain,
smoking their pipes, dreaming
of jokes and company and
women with no clothes on.
At daybreak, when we got up,
everything was normal again,
except that my favorite dress,
the white one with blue poppies
on it, was lost for good, along with
Bea’s red one. We’d have to sell
a lot of mushrooms to get new ones.

No Honey

One year, there was no honey. Visitors
tasted the pies then wanted only kale
with eggs. Or ham. Or just beer. And my son
would have preserves with his butterbread, he
said, so there were winter pies lost too.
Dried apples saved us: I packed them like stones
at the millhouse and then I buried them
in milk, cooked down to make it sweet. “What is
this?” they asked, before they even swallowed.
So came spring again, then berries. Then,
with our savings, honey sold in town.
After that, the bees returned and life
went on as before. I still make that pie
from time to time. Everyone seems to like it.

Reunion

Ten winters he was gone, then twenty, but
returned without children or woman or
riches. Only other men, ragged
as he was, monstrous tongues in their mouths, and
thirsty for beer and other pleasures.
Their machines could show the time of day
or map the heavens. For fun, they told me.
They told of mystik countries where flowers
grew from bombillos and babies ate
roots for bread. Life there, they said, was good.
Transparente. Transparent, eh? I
said. Carne! Carne! they called but stuffed
themselves with pie and me with their stories:
Guatémala, Mexico, tradeways,
ships in salty water, sugary
fruits. I had no use for any of it.

Leaving the Mountain

(in memoriam: Mamaw,
my mom, and Maurice Sendak)

All that is new, not
of home, or me, calls
me. What is not goat
or sheep, though like both.
Skin brown not from sun
but nature. Mucous
membranes where I have
none. Ruffled symbols
predicting nothing,
communicating no
awe beyond what this
world offers somewhere.

And so, I go, trade
dew for camels, light
and ice for humid
dinosaur woods. Once
there I dream of sour
red berries, silver-
armed sprites, cold whey
in a hammered cup,
and the attention
of old grizzle-mouthed
women wanting more.

Memory

Daybreak. Surf smooth as ice
on the wet beach.
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxMexico?
Italy?
xxxxxxxThe sun, glutinous,
emerges from the blue water.

Lungs, mouth, eyes fill

with home.

Mountain Stream

Winter
marls the water
into hard
white sprites
and griffins playing
and grabbing
one another
with no motion, wet
and shining and
still
as the first
memory and, soon
after, as
forgotten.

HIgh Up, Past the Pines

Found an angel on the wayside
today. Face up, wings crushed beneath
it. Not like you’d expect: no blood
anywhere, featherless, and not
male or female that I could tell.
Dead, I think. The gaze empty,
the body cold. Why here, I thought,
so high up, so far past the pines,
past where anyone goes? What rant
or warning or report, and for
whom? I lay down beside it:
the only way I could think of
for finding out. I just got cold,
though, and emptier, leached
of my human learning by moss
and longing and other hungers.

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