The river picks its way past stones, towards a far off sea,
below the village that has grown, cell on hollow cell
carving out caves of refuge, the first step up the hill.

If we could wait among these arched and narrow paths
maybe a lifetime, we'd learn the language of the walls,
listen and understand what they are whispering.

'To us a generation is a falling leaf.
Since the first fire stones were laid
we've lived around you, given protection.

'We watch your births gush
like new springs from a cliff
your babies round and slippery as a pebble in a stream.

`We watch your old ones at their deaths
brittle as rotten wood, branches
breaking with a breath of wind.

'We watch the ones who simply
tend the fragile surface of the earth,
plant, gather, eat, talk, sing and sleep.

'We watch your little ones who thought
that love comes freely with the sun and rain
anger from the shadows and the clouds.

'We watch your young ones, saplings becoming trees
believing that a heartbeat is a life
not knowing they could die of unmet need.

'We know the love of parents and the old
gathering the tribe around the home
like fruit in autumn.

'We see those other ones who aim for mastery
but lack the strength to manage their own heart
or use self-hate in place of discipline

'We felt their disregard for pain
we hear their whispered games and plans,
wishes that cut and sting like whips,

'we hear the clatter of their metal
their echoing voice, the word of mastery
and still we feel the burn of sacrificial blood.

'We saw them building castles higher up
a lookout and a last retreat
as life retracts within the root to face the snow,

'when other scoundrels fired the growing crops,
burned out the houses' core,
leaving them empty while the stones lived on.

'we saw the masters grow in mastery
dominate the plains, leaving the older ways
playing with empty jewels that break your heart'.


The houses stop, give way to cobbled roads
that turn to meet the stream
cutting the valley floor,

a hollow space, shot through with green and gold
carved out with sinuous trees,
placental fingers stretching to the sun.

The road stops, and the path
begins to twist and weave
two stranded with the living stream

that sounds a hollow music knocked on stones
while leaf mould pressed on buried rocks
quivers beneath our feet.

Here he has made his garden
using a broken body,
stunted and taut, twisted by mountain winds.

He stayed too long in the red cave
caught, screaming silently in passage to a chiselled world
where he is taken for a fool.

There where the path turns upward to the hill
maybe he sees Maria in the shrine he made for her
the only woman who will talk to him of love

and higher, at the forest gate
he has arranged, and planted flowers
and signed it "City of Trees".

In the stone circles that he laid
maybe fairies dance for him at night
or maybe he hopes that travelers will stay a while and eat,

and by the wooden bridge he made
Naiads perhaps strip from the stream
to give him soft unreal loving in his dreams.


The path crawls upwards to the castle on the hill
tangled in brambles, growing indistinct,
like letters of an ancient text,

just legible the ones who slaved or sang their way
upstream, in sun and sudden rain
and silent snow, soft sheeting all.

Relaxing to the green embrace of ivy root
the castle falls to nature's sweet disorder
slowly unbuttoning, stone by stone.

Beyond the ruin's crumbling peak
where mountain shoulders rise and rise
joining in strength, dressed in a living tapestry,

A hermit lived one step away from death
his bed a ledge cut in a precipice
trusting the great Beginning and the peasant heart.

Above, a massive mountain head breaks through the trees
pure rock, crisscrossed with crystal fissures
a dizzying block skirted by stone-fall scree.

Giant of time, divine in his indifference
he generates the weather, cloud and light,
changing his aspect constantly.

From time to time a stone falls tick, or in a sudden slide
a clatter joins the scree;
each day
a handful of this vastness slips towards the sea.

a mass and life too huge for lookers-on to know
although rock warriors
by straining fingertips
may win the peak, and hold it for a breath

then leave it to its singularity.

Higher than that, there's just the world of winds.

© 2001 R. Lawson