Monday, March 15, 2010

TRYING OUT THE NATURE POEM

I had a wonderful weekend, considering how often I remembered that Tom won't be home for another year. A good friend of ours took me out on Sunday, and we started early-- extra early, if you count Daylight Savings. We caught the morning train headed up Pike's Peak on the cog railway, something I've wanted to try since we moved here but didn't have the balls to do by myself. There were tons of tourists. A little altitude sickness. No fox sightings, unfortunately. But it was still beautiful.

We were only able to travel a short way up the peak on account of the snow we've only seen hints of in the city over the past few days. I didn't mind. (The photo above was taken at about halfway down.) The cloud cover seemed to swoop down so quickly, and it was quite an experience to stand directly beneath it when the train let us out for a quick walk. Strange to feel moisture in the air again, even if it was freezing. I felt like I was half on the ground, half in outer space. You lose your breath easily, but your mind clears. My advice? Hold still while you're thinking. Also? The Port-o-Bowls at the pitstop aren't half as bad as they could be.

We stopped to look at the 2200 year old tree that I can't believe we haven't plowed down yet (pictured). Beauty of this sort doesn't always last long, it seems. We also saw the tree that probably wouldn't have inspired a poem if not for our all-knowing, slightly strange guide. (Fortunately, my friend and I both brought our notebooks. Writers are handy like that.) I thought I'd give the nature poem a chance; after all, I did just spend the past week helping my students dig into Mary Oliver's poems. My writing voice is still not quite as peaceful as Ms Oliver's, but I consider this a nature poem all the same.


TAKING THE COG RAILROAD UP PIKE’S PEAK IN MARCH


Mel, our guide, points out glacial reservoirs, asks us
if we know how much dynamite it takes to break up

a five-foot-square block of ice. No one knows
and Mel doesn’t tell us; he carries on, says the seventeen mile

stretch of gravel road snaking alongside the tracks
is called Ron’s Driveway because it belongs to Ron,

the man who maintains the water pipes running to town.
We catch a glimpse of Ron’s small white house

yellowed by rain and cold sunlight and snow-blower exhaust.
There are rows of small cedar birdhouses hanging beneath

the windows on hooks that must be anchored behind the panes.
Ron isn’t home, but I picture him looking something like

the Brawny paper towel man until Mel tells us
Ron is only twenty-four and single, in case we’re interested.

We rock past his house, the dangling empty birdhouses,
and the crunchy road named for a lonely mountain boy

darts off suddenly into the trees like a crow and leaves
a sleepy stream in its wake. Mel directs our attention toward

a splintered stump about ten yards away from the track. That tree
was once a stout Ponderosa Pine, Mel says, with a trunk

like a cinnamon stick and arms full of glossy green needles.
It was struck by lightning about five years ago

and Mel wishes he could have shown it to us whole.
Although, he recalls, scratching his round belly,

for the entire morning after that particular storm the woods
smelled like warm butterscotch. To this day, he’s never seen

so many foxes out hunting in broad daylight.
He wishes he could have shown us that too,

ragged red foxes following the scent of dessert
around and around before going back to their empty holes.

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Thank you to those who have sent me comments via email. I appreciate them.

P.S. I'll keep you posted if the Colorado Springs Writers Reading Series ever gets off the ground. Still having trouble coordinating the venue, but hopefully this idea isn't dead yet.

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2 comments:

Wes said...

Nicely done. Its like I have a souvenir from the trip. You'll have to travel all the way to the top and write another.

Thomas said...

I'm glad you had fun. Even the local radio personalities only descibe the weather here as "hot" not sure you could even get a haiku out of the scenery here.