Personal Geography

We are marked
by the place we call home,
not the house or people
(though that is true, too),
but by the land.

I am the daughter
of the mother of mountains,
child of this earth’s oldest river,
suckled by Appalachian breasts,
sung to sleep by New River’s roar.

The road ended, petered out,
at the top of the mountain
where we lived.
Without noise or street lights
we could hear and see.

Have you heard
a whippoorwill at dusk,
over heard
the conversation of squirrels,
or the wind with the trees?

Have you seen ribbons of mist
hanging on the hills,
waiting for the sun to kiss away
fog’s diaphanous drapery
and bring the day to birth?

What, I ask you,
is so lovely
as a patch of trillium
in a stand of oak,
a rhododendron thicket in June;

what so fearsome
as a copperhead
coiled in leaves,
a black bear with her cubs
met unexpectedly in the woods?

In mountains that held black
diamonds of enormous cost
to the good people who dug them,
I have seen these things,
and others too wonderful to tell.

My home was rugged, isolating,
astonishing in its beauty.
It left me with rough edges,
an undeniable earthiness,
a taste for solitude.

I was formed
by a land so grand
that it broke the boundaries
between me and mountains
clean open

and still calls me
to soar like a hawk
above the narrowness of self,
to rise on the wind
and sing and sing and sing.


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