WHEN MOUNTAIN MEN VISIT THE CITY
They never shake the sight of mountains,
retain their awe for that immaculate
merge of peak and cloud and sky,
even in sitting rooms, cross-legged
on a chair discussing cows or some such,
or in the bathroom, rubbing fingers
over stubble, or in a shop trying on
last year’s clothes. Sure they fit a
body. But a mountain…
They’re awkward. They speak with
such a twang, folks look to their
flannelled chests for sub-titles.
A drop of phlegm is never far
from every word they speak.
They count their change a hundred
times, have no faith in city folk.
But mountains…if there were no God,
then mountains would be God.
They stay in the cheapest hotel on the street.
What do they care that there’s no air-conditioning
or that bathrooms are shared. They don’t bother
looking out the windows. Or care enough
that the sheets are clean. Outside, there’s plenty
of noise but nothing to dig your fingers in
and scale. Main Street sure does hustle
and bustle but it hasn’t rise enough for even a foothill.
Fact is they’re anxious to get back to their
promised land. Sure they speak to the man
from the co-op, go to the auctions, the bank,
even catch a movie at the Avalon. But colored
light on a dirty blank screen doesn’t thrill
the blood the way a mountain can. What’s the
point of not knowing what will happen next?
A range would never demean itself to be
a valley one day, a river the next.
They leave as soon as their business is done,
pile into the old truck that hacks and coughs
its way to finally humming. They don’t look back
at the women in their Sunday finery,
the men in tailored suits. The tallest of these city
folk is just a tip of the hat over six feet.
If it’s not a mile high, if a hawk can’t swoon
ascending to the top of it, if it don’t gush
in snow-melt waterfalls in spring,
if a second cousin hasn’t tumbled off it
trying to climb its western slope, then it
may as well be underground.
A mountain’s heritage. It’s parentage.
It’s birthright and destiny. It won’t lend a man
a dime but it won’t call in his debts either.
It doesn’t feed the livestock but nor does it cry out
to be fed. Men think they’re as hard as
a rock but it really is as hard as a rock.
And a mountain would never lie to you.
It was the truth before there even was a name for it.