The Mountain Singer


But for the Goshawk

By A. F. Popper

For more than a year, he neither kissed nor held a woman,

Though he lived among them and had many as friends.

Hiking the front range two hours from the city

He crossed the tree line, a marmot run moonscape,

Where stark skies and summits feed astronomers dreams.

Then thin air was wind and wind became water

As gullies transformed and torrents descended,

An aqueous chaos that could not silence

The essence and tone of that singular voice,

A clarinet whisper cutting through windblasts,

Her clarity directing – and then he saw her

Teeter and steady, fifty feet below.

He dropped to the ground, crawling and grasping,

Deceived by soaked lichen, clutching the scrub pine,

Heels before him, inching and falling, at last to her side,

Fifty feet below.

She, a lone hiker, a circuit trail champion,

Had glimpsed red-tailed falcon

Or was it a goshawk challenging the sun,

And slipped on the mica, flecked sodden mirrors

Hidden in rubble that spun her off course.

She fell as if struck, rolled and collided

With the last solid outcrop before the abyss,

That hard happy granite

Saved her sweet life.

Alone in a deluge, two hikers at cliff’s edge,

Plan their ascent as thunder surrounds them,

Study the hillside, talk out the handholds

Slowly pull upward, faith in their moves.

Back on the path, a long hug then backpacks,

Tied shoes and planning, walking together,

When wind blows the last rain toward some other hillside

Toward some other hikers who meet on a mountain

And wonder if salvation will grant an embrace.


The Mountain Singer

By A. F. Popper

In sunlit parts her face revealed

The aching themes

Of cherished Sundays

Released to feed the wind.

I know you doubt

But grand symphonic

With genius bowing eights rows deep

Can scarcely match

Her star blue echoes

Her sublime tonal bliss.

We sat on benches

Moved from the basement

Open to claim all she conveyed

Every fragment, the words frail boundaries

Simple shining frames.

This was the singer

Who lived north of our town

Who transformed the rain

That started to fall.

This was the voice

Of life in the mountains

Of grace and compassion,

The purest of springs.