The Mountains

D’Arcy McNickle
There is snow, now—
A thing of silent creeping—
And day is strange half-night . . .
And the mountains have gone, softly murmuring something . . .

And I remember pale days, 
Pale as the half-night . . . and as strange and sad.

I remember times in this room
When but to glance thru an opened window
Was to be filled with an ageless crying wonder:
The grand slope of the meadows,
The green rising of the hills,
And then far-away slumbering mountains—
Dark, fearful, old—
Older than old, rusted, crumbling rock,
Those mountains . . .
But sometimes came a strange thing
And theirs was the youth of a cloudlet flying,
Sunwise, flashing . . .

                  And such is the wisdom of the mountains!
                  Knowing it nothing to be old,
                  And nothing to be young!

There is snow, now—
A silent creeping . . .

And I have walked into the mountains,
Into canyons that gave back my laughter,
And the lover-girl’s laughter . . .
And at dark,
When our skin twinged to the night-wind,
Built us a great marvelous fire
And sat in quiet,
Carefully sipping at scorching coffee . . .

But when a coyote gave to the night
A wail of all the bleeding sorrow,
All the dismal, grey-eyed pain
That those slumbering mountains had ever known—
Crept close to each other
And close to the fire—
Then hastily doused the fire
And fled (giving many excuses)
With tightly-clasping hands.

Snow, snow, snow—
A thing of silent creeping

And once,
On a night of screaming chill,
I went to climb a mountain’s cold, cold body
With a boy whose eyes had the ancient look of the mountains,
And whose heart the swinging dance of a laughter-child . . .
Our thighs ached
And lungs were fired with frost and heaving breath—
The long, long slope—
A wind mad and raging . . .
Then—the top!

                  There should have been . . . something . . .
                  But there was silence, only—
                  Quiet after the wind’s frenzy,
                  Quiet after all frenzy—
                  And more mountains,
                  Endlessly into the night . . .

                  And such is the wisdom of mountains!
                  Knowing how great is silence,
                  How nothing is greater than silence!

And so they are gone, now,
And they murmured something as they went—
Something in the strange half-night . . .

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on November 26, 2023, by the Academy of American Poets.