II. Above the Mumford Bar, American River
We climb on pine needles
Where a doe ahead bounced off on a tangent
When she spotted us.
Under pines so tall we tip back
To see their tops
You drop, and catch yourself on two hands.
The trail tunnels through springy brush
Of sapling firs
And dwarf oaks, their leaf edges yellow for fall.
Soon the creek we’ve heard a while Appears.
The crossing gives us pause–
Three unflat stones,
One lumpy, one rounded,
One leaning upstream,
Not in a row.
On the facing slope the trail beckons To more green woods.
Upstream a log’s been laid across.
You clamber to its end, take two steps out,
But then, frozen in a pose, you halt,
Arms above the water as for a blessing,
Frozen too I gaze,
Too far back to reach a hand or stick, Knowing not to cry out.
There is nothing I can do.
How far we are from help. [no stanza]
Till you sink, one leg drops over, then the other,
You grab the log, straddle,
And shimmy back.
The testy rocks look better now.
We stumble across, each wetting one boot.
Half under a mossy boulder
We lean on elbows, eat bananas,
Dangle fingers in whitewater,
Sip from juice boxes meant for kids.
The green shade holds us quite,
Like Adam and Eve as children
Who never were.
On a rock a lizard takes the sun,
Untroubled by us,
Though we talk and hum
And tell each other childhood hymns
And prayers we learned–
Of streams and rocks in other lands,
And a mother never known to lose
Her mortal children.
After these hours of heights
The sun, angular astride the facing ridge,
Unbinds red shafts of light
Like hair let down for evening,
Flings them sideways through green leaf smells.
Two flickers with brown-cream breasts and speckled backs
Call notice of our approach,
Then renew their rattling pecking
In seasoned wood.
Mixed and layered rocks bestrew the trail–
Red ferrous chunks, white quartz, gray shale.
Far below, a river’s twisting strands
Make glad this world of life.
That these upsurging crags,
Boulders, tree giants, plunging canyons,
That they all float on molten stuff
Deep under us,
How shall we think it?–
Black oceans of superheated rock,
If the merest leakage of it surged across the trail
It would crisp us to a powder–
Above us, an exploding sun bombards with angled rays, Below, imploding rocks churn and seethe. [no stanza]
Somehow we live between them
In a layer of woods
And water cool from a spring–
It trickles down a rocky bed and sounds
How improbable this place of moderated matter.
Not root nor wing work only
But psychic work has been done on it.
Fusion fire met brimstone fire,
And on their interface
These moments fell out green and burgeoning.
Deep called to deep,
Molten waves and billows clashed,
And their utterance we