poems as hand- and foot-holds on a glass mountain

The First Question

                  

The first question has never been asked

the one with no history, before before

we didn’t know we were it

until it appeared, draping our history

around its nakedness like a foreign flag

wearing a younger version of our faces

we started to ask but couldn’t

there were neither seams nor cracks

to sprout a question

a noxious weed

no edges, no dark corners

no rivers asking to be crossed

no mountains wanting a steady climb

no clinging fog, no fuzzy thinking

to be unraveled or bypassed

only a pleasant humming of bees

in a space broad enough 

to catch and hold song

We watch a butternut army

splash across Chickamauga Creek

armpit deep in places and September cold

for the biggest of the war’s western battles

against a blue-dressed army

they in early morning sunlight

we in darkness in the camps the survivors

will make in an exhausted evening, warming our hands

by a fire long turned to ash

the deep woods strewn with abandoned bodies

veterans have joined us

with their long stare

a well-lit seeing opens and holds them

all their lives out of ordinary time

we are this long seeing, our body-minds fallen away

with their questions, their longing

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