A grasshopper crawls over the twisted steel rail, rusting
within a hand’s reach from where I sag down on haunches,
tumbles on its head, flails its feet on the rotting wooden ties
and takes to air tick-wickering the way grasshoppers do.
My fingers reach out to the yellowed aspen leaves,
testing their resilience which is not much, then dust.
I don’t know why I have come to the end of this rail
way track that lies abandoned behind houses and rocks.
The sky has never looked so blue or the sun so dappled,
and my lungs are filled with the first cold air of autumn
from deep down where the wildflowers hold their roots.
Oregon grapes grow bitter but big in blueberry memories,
their thorny leaves strung in holly garlands along the ground.
The world ticks again, whickers, and wings fill the sunlight,
across our alpine meadow. The suits hanging in my closet
have so filled with time that they do not fit any longer. There
are dark men standing in the midst of forests all across our land.
They have their calloused hands out, calling silently.
Laying my hands to the steel bent and rusted, narrowing
toward home I feel still the hard hands of men who made this rail
a way of transitioning things that bring change from cities; those
hands torn lifeless now but not so long ago holding wars in Europe
between plantings of the seeds that grow around us now, and I
hear the winds of winter gather above our peaks, whipping
down wind and water carved canyons and through the aspen.
The mountains groan along that line of time, and space is
the opening of time between each leaf upon each trembling limb.
Each blade of grass, each leaf of sedge is sharp to the fingers,
cutting away the seasons of growth that gave it green,
each slender stock tinged toward tomorrow with yellows,
browns, reds intertwined. And the air is bright with the
scent of an old lady’s Depression era spice cabinet.
In the dark pools, the hidden riffles far above Boulder
in the off-road unmapped Indian Peaks Wilderness, the
sun is rising inside brown trout and smoking inside their sides
with all the colors of the mountainsides where no one sees.
They bend into the rocks themselves spending their spawn
into the fusillade of color that gives life to time, flesh to flesh,
encasing themselves in bright red eggs that are the dawn of everything
dark beneath the water that feeds upon the songs of crickets,
and I wonder what this rail is still doing here, scarring
this seam of land. I think at times I know.
Jared Smith's Collected Works is forthcoming from NYQ Books in 2012. He has nine previous volumes of poetry, and his poems, literary criticism and essays have appeared in hundreds of journals in the U.S., Canada, France, Germany, China, and elsewhere, as well as being adapted to stage in New York and Chicago. He has served on the editorial boards of The New York Quarterly, Home Planet News, Trail & Timberline, and The Pedestal. Favorite memories include drinking conversations with Gregory Corso in The Village. He now lives in the mountains of Colorado.