Come with me. Here’s
the secret trail. At the edge
of the potato field, crouch through
the barbed wire fence. Enter
the maple forest, the green oven.
Bake, slowly rise like a gingerbread figure.
Release rivulets of sweat.
This is nothing, the foothill.
Listen: the purr, the burble, the rush,
the small canyon of Catamount
Creek. Remove boots, splash yourself.
Splash me. Cup water in hands
to pour over the face. Let water dribble
inside the shirt, drip to the shorts.
Relish the shock of cold
against hot parts.
Work uphill now, at last
out of the trees into the land of
wild blueberry. Pluck, taste
tiny nut-like explosions of blue,
so intense, so different from store-bought.
Gorge, let fingers and tongue
turn garish. Fill pockets.
Climb with me now among rocky
outcrops like stair steps to the Funnel,
a crevice where from below
you push my bottom, then from above
I pull your hand. Emerge to a view
of valley, farmland, wrinkles of mountains
like folds of flesh. How far we’ve come.
This is the false top.
Catch your breath, embrace the vista,
then follow me in a scramble up bare granite,
farther than you’d think, no trail marked
on the endless stone but simply
navigate toward the opposite of gravity,
upward, to at last a bald dome
chilled by blasts of breeze.
At the top, sit with me, our backs against
the windbreak of a boulder.
Empty your pockets of blueberries. Nibble,
share — above the hawks,
among the blue chain of peaks
beyond your outstretched tired feet.
Appreciate your muscles
in exhaustion and exhilaration.
We have made love to this mountain.
Hear a sound like a sigh from waves of
alpine grass in the fading warmth
of a lowering sun. Rest.
After this, the return
is so easy.
First published in Plum Tree Tavern.
Joe Cottonwood has built or repaired hundreds of houses in his day job as carpenter/contractor. Nights, he writes. His latest book is Foggy Dog: Poems of the Pacific Coast.
Photographs by Joe Cottonwood. Used by permission.