Monday, July 4, 2016

to step over the mountain

Road Prong

the “Road” is a simple track the Cherokee improved
during the War Between the States,
when their nation allied with the Confederacy
in hopes it would be treated as a sovereign state,
and not a people condemned to being trivialized on a reservation,

for thousands of years native peoples 
stepped over the mountain here,
along this clear magical stream,

following rocky chutes up steepening slopes

so as to skirt cascades,
where great bulwarks of sandstone
danced the water white down the mountain,

sandstone grey like a misty mountain,
except where the rock is age-splotched with lichen
and gentled by the mosses green,

the last great waterfall and pool before the ridge line

draw me into a quick dip and a longer musing,
we call this place “Nimrodel” 
for it reminds us of elf enchantment in a Tolkien world,
I imagine Cherokee drawn here to plunge,
their daily morning homage to the primacy of water and toughness,

this old road is the best way over the central Smokies upthrust,
I feel for the echoing memories of countless explorers, hunters, traders,
who passed through much the same forest I see today,

a major ford to cross the stream, the Park's attempt at a bridge
got swept away in high water two years ago

back in the 1960s bulldozers and asphalt sought this valley,
how wonderful we decided we could not afford the loss.

by Henry H. Walker
June 30, ‘16

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