november mountain road


To the side of a cascade of little waterfalls,
the yellow-golden leaves of a mountain ash
drop one by one into the clear pool where the
water gathers itself together and rests a while.

A hermit might build a hut here simply
to count the numbers of their passage.
Sitting, watching, working out the intricacies
of a lute's tablature, pondering how the

turning, tuning downwards of but a single string
shifts our gaze from the steady rise of soaring
birds and blue skies to the sound of a minor
key's slow, continuous descent into earth.

Falling, everything falling. After a sharp
freeze, the avalanche alders of the north-facing
slopes give up their dry, dark brown leaves in
but a single day. Branches growing along

the ground, then steeply rising like a strung bow,
they're ready to disappear under six feet of winter snow.
Along the path where no one has been for weeks,
the sweet, rusty fragrance of the alpine rose brings

a muted echo of solstice pink. Without a trace of wind
or even a nutcracker about, the needles of the larch
forest tumble round and around themselves in slow motion,
falling to the mossy floor below. November, that time of year

when the lost, longed for strophes of verses naturally
rise within us on the sound of low plucked strings.
What chord might give back the movement of the
black lichen's meticulous growth on its granite rock?

The farmer leaves the kids home with the pumpkins and goes
with his wife on weekend trips to Paris and New York to
buy chestnuts and find out, while the professor takes over the hogs
in the barn, chews on lean bacon and asks the same question.

Two old crows, always the same couple, one with
a few feathers missing from its left wing, fly the
same trajectory every day, slightly right of center
valley, West then East;

They gave up trying to figure out the fingering
to the song long ago. The furry marmot watches
and blinks his eyes for the last time from his lookout
rock before retreating into his winter hole, as an eagle,

wings tightly closed, rests, far above on its cliff.
A single car, lost perhaps, shifts gears along the one
lane road that feels its way up the misty mountain, all listening,
listening for the sound of that chord which forever falls.

(Photo: Saint Michael's Curve, the European Alps)

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