by Anne Maren-Hogan

Keeping my eye out for the first frost,
encouraging the plants that survive,
parsley, marigolds, lettuces,
I startle when the first gunshot
heralds bear season.

At the crest of leaf season,
bicycling up Seven-Mile Ridge
I find myself in a thicket of hunters
and dogs, a clan calling themselves
South Toe Bear Hunters. One steps
forward tipping his hat, another,
deep creases along the jaw line,
sports a dog chain drooping over his shoulder.

Nine sets of curious eyes peer out from the bed
of a blue pickup, Red Bone, brindled Plot Hounds,
Blue Tick, six of them siblings,
first season for them.

Dogs bay here at the crossroads
as they pioneer these woods,
I panting up the hill, fueled by
shimmering maples
as we scatter like leaves.

Anne Maren-Hogan gardens and writes in the South Toe Valley beneath Mt. Mitchell.

About Crossroads — This poem came from a moment of recognition of the common love of nature among those who have lived here for generations and those of us relatively new to the mountains.