Cliffield Mountain

by Bill Caldwell

Beside me trucks gear down
into a valley, then, sluggish, crawl
up a steep grade, while I swerve off
the highway, squinting, to drive
toward the sun. As I open my window,
Jack, my dog, quivers, head out
of the window. I tell him: we’ve got
a way to go, as we wrangle a curve,
lean into switch-backs. Out of the car,
Jack gallops, I walk. A buzzard sails
above us in a flat-blue sky, no dips,
no dives—skims the flat-blue.
Jack darts into a cavern, where ferns
cluster on jagged rock outcrops.
We hear a creek cascade into a crevice.
Unable to catch squirrels, Jack nips
at their tails, then stops, right paw
held up—his fixed gaze is on banded
water snakes, twenty or thirty, coiled
loosely, at leisure, out-stretched on stones,
as they bask in the sun. They ignore us
like it’s a day at the beach.

Bill Caldwell lives in Asheville, North Carolina. He was formerly a nurse and marriage and family therapist and now enjoys retirement with his husband. His poems have been heard on KAXE radio and published in Artemis, The Great Smokies Review, and Kakalak.