Covenant at Little Devil Stairs

Rachel Galvin

Blue Ridge Mountains, 2002

Under the devil's tattoo we set out,
turning a blind eye to harbingers:
coiled rattlesnake, bear scat.
A mile in, the heavens unreeled,

cambered with weight, claw to crank,
until flash frame—bolt and clap
synched in close composite—south wind
like a woman in labor. The uphill trail deluged,

reached our ankles in minutes. Deer jostled
toward copses, we ran until we couldn't see
for the cumulonimbus, its descending sunder,
its Boolean decibels: something encoded

between peal, no peal, peal. We, white-blind
seedpods, as in the blue mountains of Ararat,
ablution within ablution—
we would have torn the house down

to build a boat if we could have.
Road's rim at last. We scrabbled, popped up,
crouched aground: redemption in Hogback mud.
Passing truckers mugged surprise,

but the highway was alive with a sweet savor—
wet beyond water, rinsed through, washboarded,
we waved back to the thumb's-up of cyclists,
caped messengers who hollered OHHH yeah.

They say for a bulb to burn the xenon must be pure,
its quartz enveloped sucked shut. If the spooling slows,
the xenon will deliquesce the film in seconds:
this brilliant aperture dissolves all fictions. After lightning,

your body fills the field of view, fills with quick seedlings
of exhilaration, fills to the quick: if the universe is emulsion,
we are suspended, magenta, yellow, cyan, primed
to receive light, to refract its promise.

 

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