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A Quarterly Journal
Jeffrey Woodward, Founder & General Editor
Volume 9, Number 4, December 2015

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Gary LeBel
Cumming, Georgia, USA


The Road to the Falls

Try as you may
you can't stop another
from loving you
nor from hoisting their sails
on another's sea . . .

I. Ribbons

The road is a silver ribbon, the sky a pristine blue, winds cold with the rawness of early February. Trees at the higher elevations stand tall in the crisp morning sunshine already blushing with the deep red hue of leaf-buds, the color of the promises they'll keep.

The state road's paving is littered with an inscrutable cursive: where the asphalt has cracked, workmen have filled in the fissures with a pitch-black tar, thousands on thousands of them. In places they resemble the fierce calligraphy of Hakuin and at others the gliding elegance of Kufic. Time and distance rolls them out like a scroll: though it yields no counsel for those who drive over it, sparrows read of further encroachment, a breakneck spring and endless summers, a contract they must somehow breach.

II. Tympanum

Though ubiquitous mists from the Falls have covered the surrounding bedrock with cloaks of ice, I watch as small heat-waves rise nearby where moiling leaves are kindling in the bright sunshine. Heat trickles upwards in a dancing warp of air just as it shimmers above asphalt in mid-summer, the sun's cold diamonds gleaming on every pine needle and mountain laurel. Making cracks in the stillness, small birds cry out, and you listen intently as with an ancient's ears, alert and aware.

The Creeks lived here
long before they knew themselves
by that alien name—
of what use to them now
is an Old Norse syllable?

III. Glimpse

On the summits, in the wide, morning pastures, cows are grazing as lavender mountains loom over them. I wonder, with those soft brown eyes, do they never look?

IV. Blink

The silence of mountains, vivid backbone that links all pre-history to each vanishing now, holds Han Shan's irascible wisdom, Ryokan's loneliness, the lamentations of a Tennessee widow bent over the tinkling strains of her dulcimer. To these mountains, the last few hundred years that watched upstarts pride themselves on their mastery of the planet are less than a dream in a geologic nap. One blink backwards through a stony eye and Bartram will appear in woollens and leather boots, gazing everywhere at once, his pack horse laden with drawings and seeds and pressed flowers destined for the port of Charleston and a ship to London where his benefactor will be anxiously awaiting them on a clamoring Georgian dock.

And when the eye blinks farther, much farther back, an autonomous, self-conscious creature will be blowing earthen-red pigments through a hollow reed by firelight, thus leaving proof that he had lived, was here, separate but joined at the hip to the inexhaustible life that surged everywhere about him, leaving proof on the cave-wall of the joy he took in the fleet, roaring splendor of bison made sacred in line and color, bearing witness with the outline of his hand beside another's.

A blink far, far forward and that same consciousness splayed on the walls of a cave will have been transformed unrecognizably into graceful white buildings seeming like a dream of Olympus: there, doctors will be delivering babies

     and as the newborns lay calm or wailing upon their clean white swaddling clothes, surgeons with high-powered syringes will be painlessly inserting microchips at the base of their cerebral cortexes while they coo at the infants, letting their pink little fingers wrap around theirs, the mandate of the 256th Congress with the help of lobbyists, a willing president and a stacked Court: "The road is a silver shackle," say the sparrows.

Beneath the dusking blue
of the Appalachians
neon haunts a valley
where a siren cuts the night
into two equal slices . . .

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