The White Mountains make clouds
when weather brings none,
the wind never satisfied, never still,
the storms never far, the peaks arctic
above temperate valleys, change
rapid and punishing.
In scrub spruce, green curtain and green quilt,
knobby and vindictive,
impenetrable and secretive,
you can die, lost,
fifty feet from the trail. Hikers lust
for a ledge, an outlook, a climbable tree.
a bucket of snakes
writhes paralyzed over the trail,
backs hard, slick.
Beneath the beeches, oaks, white pines,
rocks round and jagged,
boxcars, bombs, marbles and basketballs
last tossed by glaciers at Neanderthals
rest in green, yellow, ocher mosses,
sorrel's three-heart leaves,
ferns, ground-pine, angiosperms
watered by drips
sieved from sky.
Though infected with trails and itching with people,
the Whites still challenge
boulder-hopping crossings over clearwater streams,
summits' frosty receptions,
ghosts of the loggers who first cleared the trails
wondering why anyone would sweat their way up these mountains,
how any fool could imagine that the railroad bed
they spent six months building
Reprinted as archive from Heart of New Hampshire Magazine