Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Three Mountain Poems


Climbing is like lifting a weight, hand over hand, using a pulley. Marathoner in a trance, you ascend rapidly as time slows to near motionlessness.

Trees rustle, rice husks pushing back and forth to dry. Desiccated brush, smallish bundles, tumble downward, roll about. Bamboo thickets, agitated brooms, shiver.

Dislodged by your feet, tiny stones hurtle, soaring arcs increasing in velocity downhill, click-clacking glass marbles knocking together, gradually fading, scattering into silence.

At this height air is rarefied fire. Atop the mountain birds hover overhead, transfixed by the sun more brilliant than a sorcerer’s spell, flanked by clouds, bright balls of electricity.

Strong gusts sand your face roughly, a stone. The wind is cold, the eye of an ascetic just returned from a visit to the dead, fiercely gazing, an eagle clutching a small animal.

The vast plain below mirrors the sky, wet paddies flashing crystal polygons, jewelry turning side to side. Far into the distance, short hills squat, huge emerald droplets, whilst the river, a glittering bracelet, empties into an ocean of light.

Breathless, you are a broken wheel on the wayside. You will climb the mountain again, spellbound by the expenditure of controlled energy, delighted by the sting of sharp gravel underfoot.

I climb…

God, my Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet swift as those of hinds and enables me to go upon the heights.—Habakkuk 3:19

I climb the mountain swiftly like a sure-footed deer.
Chaos, noise, smoke, trains, ceaseless phalanxes rising disappear faster than pebbles rattling down a ravine.
Silence joins along, footfalls in his wake.
Awakened by sudden quiet, dark spirits of the forest shamble beneath a behemoth of shadows. Spotting no visitors, they turn back to probing the soil.
Clouds raise chins, disdainful at the intruder.
The guardian of the heights briskly snaps his cloak.
The sky bends its diaphragm, filling the lungs of the vault.
Rushing forward, winds burst, monsoon springs. The sun thrusts his spear.
At the summit a doorway opens to quickening vistas all around.
Who will stay beside me to gently touch my shoulder, telling me I am not alone?


I have seen a mountain. It all happened very quickly. No body could bear it
were the soul there for an hour.—Mechthild of Magdeburg,
The Flowing Light of the Godhead

Atop a high mountain
I beheld a river
Not of this earth
But of the sky,

Pure, blue,
Bending down
To fill a glass bottle,

I saw bubbles
Rising, escaping
The opening
At the bottle top.

I lifted the bottle
To the sun,
I tried a second,

Third time,
No water entered.
Glancing at my hand,

Fresh, youthful,
I heard a voice say,
“This water is for healing.

All who drink it
Are refreshed.
All who bathe in it
Are made well.

No one can carry this water
Down the mountain.
All must climb the mountain
To receive this water.”

When the vision vanished,
I felt a delicate thirst,
Fine as dust
Yet all-consuming.

Mount Sinai, Egypt


  1. Credits - original publications:

    “The Mountain,” Eastlit (September 1, 2014)

    “I climb…,” Cecile’s Writers (July 17, 2016)

    “Atop a High Mountain,” The Effects of Grace, Kindle ed., edited by Alice Saunders (Tampa, Florida: TL Publishing Group LLC, December 9, 2015), Kindle eBook, page 23


  2. Photo courtesy of Berthold Werner

    Photo link: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Mount_Sinai_BW_2.jpg