Thursday, April 5, 2018

the soul of an artist

he called himself “The Boogerman"

Robert Palmer lived deep in the rugged Smokies,
within the valley called Cataloochee
deep in distance from the gentler travelled coves,
the Palmer farm deep and distant even within Cataloochee,
a place Robert found “too crowded,”

we start out in the bottom lands,
where flat grassy fields support re-introduced elk,

protected by being so remote 
and with predatory wolves no longer around,
a beautiful hand-hewn log bridge crosses Cataloochee Creek,

and twenty minutes up the trail 
another beautifully-crafted log bridge crosses Caldwell Fork,
clear and boisterous today,

we soon take a side trail,
the remnants of the sled road
Robert Palmer hewed-out of the mountains
to get back and forth to his home,

once again I am in awe of his artistry:
the way he knew every slope and bone of these mountains
and how to slip away up the slopes
with as gentle an elevation gain as possible

and wedded to ridge after ridge
as if each knew the way to his place and wanted to help,
Robert knew the land as the Cherokee must have known it,
not as a conglomeration of things but as a living wholeness,
when others gave in to money offered,
so that living trees would become lumber for someone distant,
Robert wouldn’t sell 
and some old growth woods remain on land he held title to,
like any good farmer he knew the place of death in life,
he felled trees so he could have fields and buildings,
he must have known the trees as well 

as he knew the ridges where he built his road,

if they were to die, 
their death should mean more than a few dollars,

Robert must have had the soul of an artist,
just like those who built the bridges we crossed
and those who left stone walls all over the Smokies,
made with rightness, to last,
to honor the soul within, who knows grace.

by Henry H. Walker
March 31, ‘18

No comments: