A novel in verse … and the writing thereof
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To the Mountains

I was not always there, Sunday mornings.

Near the end of my first year in nursing school,

Maureen, whom I barely knew,

wandered into my room, pointed at

the clipping on my wall of girls singing

and of trees, and asked,

“Are you in there?”

“No,” I said. “My mother

     wouldn’t let me join.”

“Beastly,” she said. “I was a girl scout,

     all through school.”

I wish I could say I felt respect, or admiration, even envy, but no,

     it was jealousy I felt:

     don’t even speak of it; don’t eat that cake in front of me

               unless I get a piece.

That fury, a punch in the chest, startled me.

A year as a geology student had meant

hikes at least. Those mountains

had given me blisters.

In nursing school the longing had slept.

I was too busy, and that other world was

     so far away. The big city, blanketed by sea fog,

     surrounded on three sides

     by water, leans west to the ocean.

With Maureen’s words that longing

     lunged awake, hungry and irritable

     as a bear in spring.

She was still talking.


“We have room for one more.

     Want to come?”

She was sharing, quite as though

     there was plenty of cake

     for all.

Anything I said would be inadequate.

But if I did not speak soon

(and I could not speak at all)

she’d turn away, give it to someone else.

“Yes, please,” I said.


A borrowed sleeping bag, a loaded car,

canvas rucksacks with food, a tent shared

with Maureen, and a rare

three-day weekend

took us to Yosemite.

Ansel Adams’ photographs had filled me with wonder

     and desire like despair, it

     tasted so of bitterness, of loss. How was it possible to miss

     so acutely, what I’d never had?. Now, I carried

     those black and white images with me in hope.

When we arrived, the overcast sky hung above

     the valley, muting colors and our talk, as

     El Capitan loomed over the road, over us.

Then, just then, the sun came out.

“Oh, stop,” I cried, “please stop!” and

     Maureen practically killed us all, pulling off the road.

The sun, striking beneath the clouds,

flushed the world with color,

rich as the rush of blood

to a limb on which the tourniquet has been

               suddenly released.

That rush of blood hurts. Without it, the limb dies,

     but to open vessels quite clenched shut—

     Lord, that hurts.

When I bowed my head, the sun lay on my hair in blessing.

When I raised my eyes to that great wall of rock,

     I could believe in God.

This is it, I thought,

     when I could think again;

this is it for sure.

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