Mountain man, what do you need of life beyond your hills?
The mountain stirs, a slug on quaaludes. Like basalt or beeswax, ridges slide. Ghost of glacier, shade from a globe of crags. A sliver of haunting moon, sentry of laurel thicket, dares the strip mine and dragline, spectral euphemism and sad country song: come, bare your coffin rivets.
There, dominion of root salve, lichen compass, dragonfly wing.
A toddler’s soles swivel in moss and limestone, spring-fed, leap-giddy.
At her heels, blast fragments from her old man’s mountainsick jones.
Mountain as verb. I’ll sow azalea and huckleberry.
Mountain as mending thread. I’ll weave a path through knotty pine.
Mountain as force field, brimstone, curse and spell. I’ll bark, star-drenched, trembling.
Mountain as rubble museum, please visit. I’ll plant a ridge on a pinhead.
Mountain as collateral damage, market force, fossil. I’ll harvest air from the arid hills.
Planet otherwise, orbit my daughter’s woods, her maple shine and bramble grin. Tow her ark through backfill bones, dodging shoals of stump and copper wire, fording currents of opioid and not a chance, nope. Glance anywhere here: mountain man dripping dynamite rain. Mountain, man: a stake driven in the surveyor’s prey splinters his oaken rib.
A native of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains, Michael Dowdy teaches at Hunter College in New York City. He has published a chapbook, The Coriolis Effect, and poems in Crab Orchard Review, Kestrel, and Pembroke Magazine, among other places. His critical work includes Broken Souths: Latina/o Poetic Responses to Neoliberalism and Globalization, a study of Latino poetry.