Every Fallen Tree

Every Fallen Tree

The reeds, still weeks off

sprouting their shocks

of composers’ cotton,

were bent almost horizontal

by the whistling wind.

Moving in unison,

they lulled and crescendoed

to nature’s insistent baton,

demonstrating the lesson

I needed to learn:

to cede, not to hold.

But I had exchanged

one storm for another.

The battle brought outside,

my brittle form

climbed on,

headstrong, bold.

Green, barely recovered,

gave way to white,

crunching underfoot,

not yet the fathomless depths

– merely the wash hitting the shore.

Another ascent,

steeper than the last,

the weight of it pushing from above,

pressing its foot on my temerity,

my foolhardy advance,

whispering “no chance”.

Somewhere in front of me,

in the unseen,

in the unknown,

lay the respite I sought.

The mountain sneered,

or shrugged,

and closed down its eyes,

and resumed

its prehistoric breathing.

I bore down

and sank

one effortful foot

after another,

legs burning in the cold,

until I was there –

on the surface,

on top,

up where the snow

meets the sky.

Everything was white.

There was no trace

– no curve, no crevice, no face –

of the familiar.

Shapeless, vast, austere,

a monoscape of indifference

that nonetheless

slapped my face

and stung my eyes

with the obvious, the self-evident,

the everywhere-apparent.

The great merging whiteout,

the snowy envelopment,

the cascade of elements,

were nature’s pedagogue

instructing me in chilly tones

that I had come for nothing.

Elsewhere was an illusion,

a missed perception,

a sundering

of concrete expectation.

No discrete haven

waited to embrace

or salve

or solve me.

Dismissed from the summit’s classroom,

I stumbled down

a homebound track

strewn with careless debris.

And every fallen tree

was exactly where

it was meant to be.

“up where the snow meets the sky”

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