Saturday, November 4, 2006

November 4, 2006: Driving Up Unaka Mountain

This has been--and still is--the most beautiful autumn I seen in probably 20 years. While East Tennessee is always amazing this time of year, this year the colors are simply astounding. The poem below, which was published a couple of years ago, reflects on an October day 20 years ago in upper East Tennessee, when I was in college.

Driving Up Unaka Mountain

That October the wild roses wove
their way through the barbed wire
fence. Your first time in the mountains.
You stood on the edge for so long I stopped
breathing, thinking you would stretch out
your arms and dive into the green and yellow
and orange below. Or maybe I would
try it myself, not for death but for the sheer joy
of being part of something so absolute,
catching your hand as I leapt,
leaving you

laughing gap-toothed and loud.
Instead we found a warm rock
and read the books we'd brought along.
I studied the tiny freckles of your skin,
and thought about ways
to make you stay.

I was never hungry
then. Now I would pack a basket
of baguettes and brie and grapes.
Now I would be a tourist. The old people
on their porches would see my out-of-state
license plates and turn their heads, blinking

away my wave. At the top I would raise
a glass of wine and photograph the view,
everything edged and cornered.

(Sarah Cummins Small, published in Breathing the Same Air, 2001.)

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