The Mountain

Denali & fata morgana

Downtown Anchorage with Mt. Foraker (left), Denali (middle), & fata morgana (right) in the background. Fata morgana are optical illusions particularly common in polar or other cold regions: there really aren't really any mountains north of Denali visible from Anchorage, except with fata morgana. (Clickthrough to my Flickr account for options to see a larger version of this photo.)

It’s still National Poetry Month. Here’s one of mine.

The Mountain

The Mountain gazes from my locker.
She is the beacon of home.
On a clear day she can be seen from infinity.

From a flying height when the land is covered over,
all but the great yellow eye is a blueness —
all but the great rolling white plain below,
from which she alone rises.
She reflects the sun most greatly.
She is higher than the others.
She is whiter than clouds.

On days when she broods in her cloudcast
pilgrims cry for her to show herself.
Some have died in their search for her vastness,
as have died on the flanks of many mountains,
seeking the high places.
She is the Weathermaker.

She is the Crown of the Continent:
none approach her but in awe.
She is elemental, ice and rock,
snow and wind. Those who climb her
are breathless with her magnitude.
From her summit they gaze in wonder
at the tangle of her mighty ramparts,
the shoulders of her sisters and brothers,
their snowy heads, their howling wind souls.

Spine of the land thrust up
by the grinding of continents, you signify
the might of the planet. You glow
like a lamp in the arctic summer.
Even in winter night do you shine.
You are never dark.

You are not my most loved mountain,
nor favorite, nor most familiar.
But Mountain, you gaze from my locker.
You can be seen from infinity.
I see you even from this far distance.

Great One, you beckon me homeward
as you stand watch over the land.

[April 27-June 7, 1990]

About this poem

Denali (aka Mt. McKinley) was the first sight I saw of Alaska when I first came up in 1982: it was poking up above the cloudscape my plane was flying over.  I was here 5 years before a bad economy led me to move to Seattle.  In 1990 I was in my third year of living in Seattle, with a job that sucked & a terrible homesickness for Alaska.  I happened upon an Alaska Airlines brochure with a photo of Denali on it, and taped it on my locker: my light at the end of the tunnel to go with a countdown of the days left before I was outta there & on my way back to Alaska.

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