after Jeffrey Harrison
There are those for whom the mountain is just
one more fitness course made to work the quads
and boost the heart rate. Once they hit the peak,
they claim the view, comment on the weather,
compare pedometers. They can’t stand still
for long lest their muscles begin to cool and cramp.
They can’t wait to descend, to arrive at the coffee shop
in full regalia and check today’s trail off their list.
For them, one switch-backed, fat-burning ascent
may very well be mistaken for another.
And there are those for whom the hike is a social
outing—a chance to walk their dogs and complain
of their lot: their inattentive spouse, their burdensome
children. When they finally stumble across the bench
in the clearing, Fido straining at the leash, tongue
lolling, they sit just long enough to water the animal and
ready the plastic baggie for collection. They’ve missed
the quail and white-tailed deer, the rattlesnake and
painted ladies flittering among trailside thistles.
No wild thought has intruded upon their day.
And then there are those lonesome fools for whom
the trail is a listening post on the universe. Attuned to
the daily office of blossom and rot, their ears are pricked up
for mystery borne upon the liquid rustle of summer leaves.
Their eyes wander towards the shadowy undergrowth,
the wagging branch, the tremendous wings slicing
across the sky. They break through at the startling peak
just as the breeze’s lullaby chimes its final notes.
Stalked by some divine commotion, they gaze
over the fertile valley, speechless, attentive, still.
David Denny’s fiction has recently appeared in New Ohio Review, Stoneboat, and Catamaran. His first short story collection, The Gill Man in Purgatory, is now available from Shanti Arts. He is also the author of three poetry collections: Man Overboard, Fool in the Attic, and Plebeian on the Front Porch. Visit him online at www.daviddenny.net.