But for the Goshawk
For more than a year, he neither kissed nor held a woman,Though he lived among them and had many as friends.
Then hiking the front range two hours from the cityA sudden rain drenched him above the tree line,
That marmot run moonscape, where one can see summits
And black skies at midnight in violent storms.
He flipped up his hood when lightning lit the hillside,And then heard a voice, a clarinet tone rising,
A stone hit the trail and he looked below him
She, a rock ready – and he said: “Wait!”
“Don’t throw that. I’m coming.”
Crawling and grasping, deceived by soaked lichen,Clutching the scrub pine, heels before him,
Inching and falling to her side.
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 and slick
Hidden in rubble that formed her footpath.
She fell as if struck, rolled and collidedWith the last outcrop before the abyss,
Hard happy granite that 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
Sure of their moves.
At last on the path, a first 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
In sunlit parts her face revealedThe aching themes
Of cherished Sundays
Released to feed the wind.
I know you doubtBut grand symphonic
With genius bowing eights rows deep
Can scarcely match the star blue echoes
A tonal bliss,
Rare mirror of dawn.
We sat on benchesMoved from the basement
Open to claim all she conveyed
Every fragment, the words frail boundaries
Simple shining frames.
This was the singerWho 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.
Andrew Frederic Popper has taught at American University, Washington College of Law for the last three decades. He is the recipient of numerous awards including the 2010 University Scholar/Teacher of the Year. He is the author of more than 100 published novels, casebooks, articles, papers, poems, and public documents. His novel, Rediscovering Lone Pine won the Maryland Writer’s Association prize and his nonfiction casebook in administrative law recently won the Guttmann Prize for excellence.
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