Every year my friend Andrew Roberts asks for one thing for his birthday – a poem. Roberts is an accomplished poet himself and you should check out some of his work (try here, here or here). Below is the poem I sent him in 2013, and you can see the poem I sent him in 2010 here, 2011 here and 2012 here.
Shale stone is piled like pages down the long spine of this river, cut through the hills like an open book. The geology of our bones, shoulder blades and knuckles, jaw bones and shins. All edges. All sharp stones full of history, full of what nature has made us.
They say people used to jump off these ledges. Fingers and toes, bloodied on the rocks. The river washes them away, their names are how we remember this place. It was that or be killed. The trees drop leaves, pointing the way.
And as a kid I just wanted to climb up. To scramble over the confetti of rock, to feel the cold against my skin. I memorized the contours of these walls, I planned my route. I ate bark and hid there above the trail, waiting.
Birds float in a container of air, defined by the absence of mountains. Gorges left behind by ice ages. Fingers clawing at the earth, making space for wings. They circle like their legs are tied to strings.
There are fissures everywhere, places where the water seeps from the dark stone. Where breath is turned to air. Where echoes get lodged, and fall apart, returning damaged, not quite whole.
I learned to give names to the world here, to touch the water and know the season. I skipped stones, and made promises. I wrote them down in rock, in pages, in air.
(If you are curious about the title, you can read a bit more here)