Friday, July 1, 2011

The Tallulah

                The Tallulah,  August 27, 2010

I choose my steps carefully along the milky quartz and granite rocks
        blanketed in wet moss  at the very edge of the
        Tallulah river.  The river has gutted the valley,
        showing the dominance of water over stone.
The spruce and hemlock trees perch themselves 
        along the steep slopes and
        place bets as to which rocks will get moved  at the next
        flash flood. Meanwhile, the beech and sweetgum,
        their roots tangled in the stones and out-croppings,
        quietly observe this ageless interplay.
Suddenly startled, I stop in mid-step from one boulder to another
        and nearly stumble into the water.  I seem to hear voices
        of the ages from the river banks as the Tallulah washes over
        the stones and rocks with utter disregard and churn around
        the giant boulders placed spastically by some past upheavel.

Listening intently, I seem to hear anxious whispers
And sorrowful whimpers.  Conversational mutterings
Intermingle with bursts of laughter born out of joy.
The words almost become distinguishable,
But the Tallulah quickly muffles them in its constant
Washing away of the past, wanting to hold all the secrets
                To Herself.
I struggle to make out the voices of the past as I stand
Transfixed on a granite boulder that just looks so weary
        of all the time.
But I am left to my frustrations as the voices seem
To disappear with the water as it rushes downstream,
Intent on keeping a predetermined appointment.

Descending Twilight envelops the valley as I walk pensively
        back to the campfire, having noticed some bear tracks.
While I stir up the coals and feed dried oak to the fire,
The darkness springs out of the Twilight
And I am left to myself next to this secretive river,
        my only consolation--knowing that my voice
        has joined those of the ages in the Tallulah
         as it skirts by the river birches, white pines
        and yellow buckeyes.
Sitting and staring at the fire, I listen
To the cacophony of cicadas and crickets that is puncuated
        by a lonesome screech owl.
But they cannot drown out the perplexing question
Of why the Tallulah mutes the voices of the Cherokee,
        the adventurers, the settlers, the loggers, and
        even this voice by this isolated campfire
        on this warm August night.

Written by: Ernie Lawton

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