The Aura of a Self-Willed Land
by Sara Aranda
“Mountains have many moods.” – Jack Turner
At night the Milky Way dusts the sky
falls to powder the Earth by day
snow cluttered labyrinths
between the trees and ice-laced river.
Shadows paint numb strands of bark
as scattered as old elk tracks
now gentle dimples for white flesh—
soon the snow will braid itself,
erase myself, too.
A lesson for the wanderer.
Like the owl who leaves the perch,
or the bear who leaves the den at dawn
to follow the dust
back into the sky.
The long grass in the lake
waves ever so slowly as hair would.
White flowers line the bank
echo bubbling sighs
as fish break the surface
throw themselves skyward.
Their splashes are like small hands
playing in the water.
But I am the animal that peers
from the shade of a pine.
I am nothing here
but animal, knowing animal sounds
and that the long grass does not care
how I sit. That I sit.
That I am the one who is waving.
Dragonfly toss about the milkweed meadow
as smoke fills the sky,
erases the lines of all the granite walls,
a dreamscape of pastels
washed in dark milk
where the sun is turned a dark disk,
where the earth is speaking in cackling pops
somewhere in the next valley,
but the birds here still croon
and the deer still roam the ferns—
just another day
on the wheel, where the meadow sings
by the river as foam, the bitter tea of tannins,
all in pliant passage.
A granite buttress aches during the night
shrugs in flexion
tumbling shooting dust
rupture of mountain and tree
in such a way it is not a sum of parts
in premeditated mosaic—
it is spontaneous conviction
instantaneous burgeoning, where
a gaggle of geese carry spiritual alchemy—
where of course chaos creates its own change,
like a star born from the bodies of worms
emerging, finally, from crude rotting cloud
wild and fierce, a new corpse
among a talus of constellations
a great beast in this valley of darkness
sparkling and stinging there
abate in new yawning skin.
All the while the moon rises to the final thrum
of settling shudder, wrapping motherly
the nude flesh
of this infant star turned stone.
I wake up by Hot Creek
a thermal river beneath the Eastern Sierra;
a gray morning over this desert cattle land
weaned from the mountains.
I am awake but hungry and worn.
My breath built miniature icicles on the inside of my tent
and when I shake them free
they fall like sand to the grass
only melting when the light is enough
to turn them into ghosts.
I am always the one out of sync here
just a visitor to this range
of mountain speak,
despite the animalia of my skin—
the aura of a self-willed land
I have yet to become.