Five Points, Vol. 5 No. 3Summer 2001
From David St. John, “I think that one of the great dilemmas of contemporary poetry is that there’s a kind of reliance on reportage. Whether it’s domestic or political, there’s a sense that the illusion of truth, the illusion of a particular journalistic truth necessarily occasions great consequence, and that’s just not so.”
The light was pure, white, blinding. I was giddy with the brightness, the height, the magnitude of the mountains. You walked without looking back, oblivious of the wild flowers at your feet: columbines, blue bells, and white irises like candles, scintillant in the early morning light. White with foam, churning, the water resounded down to the gorge beside us, so loud I could hardly hear you speak. Without stopping to look back, you shouted, “We are almost at the top.”
But we were not. You kept climbing steadily, easily with long strides. I watched you going through the light and shade under the stunted spruce, springing forward silently, in your dusty, thick-soled boots. Your ivory calves gleamed, catching the light, as slender and smooth as a girl’s. You had tied your shirt around your hips and your broad back was bare, the silky shoulder bones exposed. Your pale hair seemed to melt into the sunlight.
My head was spinning, my mouth dry. I could smell the pine. The path flattened out for a while, and I caught my breath, looking down into the valley with its smooth green fields, and below that the orderly village, all washed by the same clear mountain light, all clean, fresh, and harmonious.
I remember how you stopped to wait for me in a pool of shade. You looked back at me with a half-smile, laughing with your eyes. I was struck by the mysterious contrasts in your face: your eyes a lush violet, the lashes long and black, the skin pale except for the bold, purple bruise beneath your chin which you carries like a blazon, the insignia of your profession. You took my hand and helped me over the roots of a tree.
The top of the mountain was cool and shaded by big boulders. There were no flowers up there, no water, and even the skeletal trees seemed to cling precariously to the thin soil. There was no sound, no bird song, not even the buzzing of a fly.
Only the light was the same: dazzling.
You sat down in the shade on the ground, slippery and scented with pine needles. I sat between your legs. I leaned back against your chest. You gave me cool water to drink from your water bottle, pouring it into my open hands. I splashed it on my hot face, my neck.
You said, “Look,” and stretched out your hand, and the shadow of your arm fell before me like a long wing. All the world was before us: the maroon mountains, the green valley, the sparkling river, the vast sky, the light and shadows. All of this had existed for centuries, the sea has receded, the mountains had surged forth, the flowers had bloomed, so that this instant could occur for me. The view was endless, the possibilities infinite. I left myself behind, escaped my suffering flesh. I plunged and plummeted. I was the white water shining below us, the glimmering aspen bark, the silver leaves beating like my heart. I was the light on your face. As you held me in your arms and told me that we could meet that evening, I was winged, perched to fly free.