Mountain Mahogany Song


Got up, put on my jeans and winter boots
black coffee in hand, a toasted bagel,
chose an old plaid shirt, left the Irish suit
to visit the gray men on the western hill
sitting side to side, knee high, tip to root
from the weathered overlook above the well;
couldn’t tell if they were dead or fast asleep
— they said, it’s just the company we keep.


Who keeps you warm on February nights?
Who dresses you, they said, when you turn in
because Adeline came by, by candlelight
asking for something comfortable to spin;
she took our branches (she was so polite!),
stripped bark, soaked them in the stream and cut them thin,
sat on the banks among the cottonwood leaves
handmade a mantle with an airtight weave,

filled gaps with green moss from your steep ravine
where it’s growing in the death camas and quartz,
the wild onion, the mountain columbine;
— you know, you strike us as a sensible sort
as smart as any human that we’ve seen
but you forget us and your heart distorts
what’s true: you’ll sleep through soft winds and our storms
but it’s Adeline’s coat that keeps you warm.

It’s Adeline’s coat that comforts you they said
and Adeline who whispers in your ear
for all the baseboard heaters by your bed
your walls and windows, how the drapes appear;
it’s not really that she loves you but instead
she loves the wilderness, the salmon weir
she needs near everything that lives and breathes:
you asleep, our seedlings in their quiet sleeves.

And who feeds you on February nights?
You’ll say groceries from the local store,
you’ll say the deli or the buffet, right?
We’ll say the hawk, the mule deer, and what’s more
the lonely kestrel in her sober flight,
old ways, old rock, old pathways you’ll explore;
trust me — they’re never hungry in these hills, but
in exchange the deer, the deer, are eating us.


I left them where I was sitting on the ridge,
picked up my cup and started down the slope
across a narrow stream along the bridge,
climbed the rise, sure-footed as an antelope
glanced back at the shrubs, a long gray carriage:
a train of gray men tethered on a rope
one, green hands turned up, like a woodland friar
in ancient prayer beside a woodland fire.