Poet’s Corner Press



By Nancy Wahl


Time was large once, roomy
parabolas around long, slow days
that wound through corridors between
anticipations.  You could scream
at the top of your lungs allee allee oxen free
with your friends throwing brown rubber balls
over rooftops, or sit for hours on green lawns
building miniature cairns out of colored bits of glass,
arranging them in orbits like stars.
Pick bunchy little dandelions
and wonder why, always why, the yellow
was magic.  Birthdays, Christmases, and summers
were all coordinates outside Cartesian spaces,
circled on predictable calendars.


Because he’s younger than we, our guide
paces himself and motions us on
as the trail gets steeper, twisting into narrow turns
around glacier-polished rocks with shining
surfaces that reflect blue ice sky.
We say in our meetings, Tuesday nights down below
in the city, that life is moving faster and faster,
and we try to slow it with meditations, Zen,
Yoga, or with the churches of our choice–
or with programmed climbs like this one,
thirteen thousand feet high
in the California White Mountains.
I slip so many times, my feet tripping
in hollows of old snow, that I am afraid
I can’t keep up with the guide, and I am getting tired
and it’s getting harder to breathe
in this altitude.


We reach a spacious clearing where a few knobby
but dignified bristlecone pines bow
from gnarled trunks, pointing their sinewy branches
like bare arms raised to heaven.
As we eat our lunches, our guide tells us
the trees are more than four thousand years old,
and I get a picture in my mind of ancient peoples,
an Abraham or a Gilgamesh, say,
strolling around this earth, breathing this earth’s fine air,
busying about, writing their histories on clay tablets.
I think I see in the striae
on the surface of one of the granite stones
what looks like some kind of cuneiform writing–catenas
of scrawly little wedges and parallel lines: messages
maybe, left for us from the absolute beginning.


Alpine hulsea poke their innocent daisy faces
up through the granite cracks,
new each spring, says the guide–
little sylvan hikers, I think,
drawn to the timeless bristlecones, cozying-up
around the ancient Olamic roots and laying their
yellow colors out in bright circles, even in high places
where they are not always seen: being
there anyway, taking their time–climbing
through their short summers.

Category: Poems


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