Wayside Icon On Paths: Part II

Without a map—
its's hard to know

when you're not where
you thought you were.

An Old Hunter

Three of us resting on a sunny slope,

a carpet of prickly juniper,
the shiny leaves and red berries
of kinnikinnik.

He was coming down, alone,
holding a tied bundle of wild

All silver-gray, so pungent,
tiny yellow flowers that seem
almost afraid to open...
"I just watch now.
It is better that way."

"Stay here all winter long."

He points and says,

"Look! Chamois,
15 females, 8 or so young;
they're all heading over
that ridge."

No black bear here.
Too many guns, too
much granite."

He hands us a few of the bitter leaves
to taste,

"A r - t e - m i - s i - a"

"Yes, yes!
Artemisia, I see. I see."

In the South, the herb of the hunter's
goddess. He smiles and writes it
with his left hand in the air.

"It's possible! The great brown bear,
many years from now.Yes, yes, it's

He puts his felt cap back on and quickly looks
with his glass up the north side of the steep slope.

"Yes, yes. In this valley, with new moon in
winter, you can almost hear the breath of Orion
at night... ..
the great one, it's possible,
it's possible."

Only Here

Thick mist, moving
from stone to stone.

Two days ago, I
walked off my last map.

Crossing dirty firn snow,
the rocks on the way down

"How can you be lost
if you don't know where
you are?"

Still further down,
the trees said,

"Stay here. There's good
water over there."

Being lost—
everywhere, a
good way to make

      new friends.

Natural History

I pick up the axe
and in a split second cleave
the tree's slowly grown past
timeline back into the present.

Wood-metal sound and I feel
the awe of Peaking Man flow
through me.

It is listening to these sounds
that keeps the sacred fire
a l i v e.  

First Fire

Burning candle, match lit, a solitary flame
passed on to a handful of dry pine.

Is there really this or that fire?
Or is there just  f i r e?
a source ever-present.

Smell of smoke, pinched eyes, ears cracked open
as the primal flame bursts into awareness

Deep within, the body moves to the music
sung to the sun-god brought down to earth.

Love Letter

I wrote on the outside,

   "Have seen many Vanessas, all
   above treeline, all heading south."

   "One wonders, from Dutch burning nettle
   to the sweet heel of the Italian boot,
   do they find their way?"

Coffee finished, the
waitress smiled as I
placed the sugar packet
with its colorful butterfly
into the gray envelope,

and sealed it carefully,

     with a kiss..

(Before crossing the Moro Pass, between
Switzerland and Italy)

Border Crossing

Not a word penetrated
the thick glass boundary.

Changing money,
all I had to do
show the bills.

Dead Roses

"A mistake?"  I brought
the goddess cut flowers!

But she asked for a handful
of black earth and some seeds.

New Clothes

All these bright colored clothes!
The noise of city streets shouting,

   "Here I am! Get out of the way!"

How much more beautiful to disappear
into the rich hues of an October day,

simple garments, subtle weaves,
threads the color of solitude.

Night Fire

Why do the best things seem
to come of themselves,
unasked for...?

the shade of a juniper,
the shock of a shared smile
on a crowded city street,

or those windless nights,
smoke rising, straight
and true,

two sitting together, watching
coals, now suddenly,


Night Flight

Suddenly, a distant roar
fills the steeply
walled valley.

A sound cascading,
wrapping round itself,
moving in all directions at once.

Barely visible on the eastern horizon,
a softly glowing blue-green body
with one intense flashing red eye,

zooms in on a straight-line path,
utterly confident of its purpose,
its destination.

Wind-sound pushing us right down
to the ground, thunder then dissipating,
its head of whirling energy
flattens out into the silence
of the spinning red light.

Already returning, three uniformed
men swiftly carry the young mother
and her little child away, while
the creature—

   m o t i o n l e s s,

roars itself into high energy, leaps
from its rock, and,
without a trace of hesitation,
gives itself back

      to the night.


Turning back...

inside of me,
a little hammer taps
a bell and reveals
a minute, invisible crack,
inside of me,

these strange epitaphs
which do not rest in peace,
do not ring out fully
into the mountain silence;

A place where no one
dares venture, but
that everyone knows exists,
and cannot forget.

Even the crows do not stop here,
and the trees enter winter without bud.
But the sound of just one of those poems...

  .....a rainbow that could span galaxies.

(Raron,Wallis: The Rhone River
Watershed, Switzerland)

Mountain Flax
[No Future]

On the wall,
to the side of the tracks,


the grating noise of un-
natural form and color.

the artifacts of

digitized day-glo eyes,
full of computer scans
and CD-voodoo.

Why does this mechanical
movement of imitation always
make its way over the great
water, from West to East,
from America to Europe?

Is it because this is the way
the earth itself moves...?

To the side of the tracks,

   a magnificent Linaria alpina,
   setting root in greasy gravel,

orange/purple pioneer of new-found land,
the low-growing mountain flax,
at home in the deep cold and
loose granite of glacier moraines.

Just passing through...?

The train backs out with a sudden jolt—

   Why do they always have
   to spray the weeds...?

(Zürich, Central Station,


On the wall—
no more space.


After six months
of walking on snow
one grows tired of it,
and one wishes
to give thanks to somewhere
that the winter is again almost over,
and that no friends or family,
or houses or barns, have
been lost in avalanches....

Not yet light, walking up an asphalt
road, lost, looking for a trailhead.

The man, whose face I could not quite see,
speaking in an ancient dialect I knew
might soon disappear, said,

"We lost my father that winter. Everything.

"The snow swept down on all sides.

"It took down a house that had stood
there for more than 300 years.

"Very peculiar, this. Don't you think?
Very peculiar."

...Mark the day of the Patron Saint
of a safe winter's passage...

They walk lethargically
through the misty morning snow,
singing chants, the words of which no
one can quite seem to remember,
truly thankful somehow, and,
for the mean time, free of concern
about what the next, now very distant,
winter may bring.

The Scythe

Must awareness always be so slow
in coming?

I've learned to sense each rock,
each change in the lay of the land
before  I cut—

But my scythe!

So hopelessly full of gouges and cracks,
its tip no longer whole.

Wheat Field in Summer

Grass of all grasses.

A warm wind playing,
blue-green waves rolling
out into the distance.

To the right,
straight through the field,

four wheels turning
have left a trace.

Mountain, Chapel,
Cemetery and Tree

A snow-covered mountain, a
chapel made of stones;
a cemetery which holds
the light and the darkness
that entwines them both.

A shadow falls from a linden tree,
its crest now broken after so many years.

Planted with such care, two seedlings grow
and will take its place.

   As two young men walk swiftly past,
   the mountain's face begins to glow...

Will their roots reach deep water?
Will they, too, embrace the light?

All at Once!

Kicking steps in pure ice,
a story etched in the sounds of an
oh-so-ethereal ascending chord;

Crossing a high ridge,
looking for a moment back
over the land through which
I have come.

What seemed like
a confusion of chance
now has the clear ring
of necessity about it.

Heading down,
linking turns, boots gliding
on the smooth surface
of sun-softened snow,

looking,— the eye of a raven,

"Before / after;"
"Before / after."


Jump the crevasse!

G o d d a m n!

(Jumped the crevasse!)

All at once; One at a time;

    A l l  a t  o n c e!


The Bell

The point at the center of a cross,
where wet and cold meets warm and dry,
and flowing waters and cultures divide.

North side and South side,
how could I ever choose? Swaying
back and forth, I am the bell
that rings out on all sides.

| Image: Wayside Icon, seen in many variations throughout the Alps):

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(Last update: III.6.2003)