Elegy Remembering Our Climb on Looking Glass Rock
Like a wet wool sweater, the humidity clung to me—
but sprawled before us like a map’s textured shading,
I could see ridgelines and shadowed drainage valleys,
blue pockets of lakes and more gray rock faces
scattered throughout the forest. From there,
the wilderness looked manageable. From there,
it all seemed worth it. What do you think? you asked,
turning to me, your silver nose ring catching the sun.
Up that high, there was no leaf canopy to shield us.
I knew the odds you’d stay clean. Still, I had hope.
I said, I think I finally understand maps, and you smiled
because you understood exactly what I meant.
Invasive Species Lesson on the Drive to Nantahala
We curved through summer roads flush with kudzu.
I called it beautiful because it was. Everywhere
but the two-lane pavement, green vines thrived.
My coguide, though, called the roads’ lush enclosure
erosion. A plant once thought to solve a problem,
now a plague in his Appalachian home. How quickly
the landscape changed when he told me the story.
I saw where leaves smothered bark, where vines
asphyxiated tree limbs, choked entire trunks.
He said the hemlocks’ acquiescence was no surprise,
the poor things already fading to the beetles, but he hated
how even the poplars and strong white pines
bowed their necks to kudzu’s chains. On some stretches,
we couldn’t see beneath the vine to know which breeds of trees
would soon cease ringing themselves outward.
Eventually, I tried to ignore the scenery and just watch him drive,
his lips like a golden mold setting in the midday sun.
It wasn’t fair, but in that moment, I wanted an apology from him
for sharing such a truth with me. I couldn’t un-see
the leaves as murderers traveling along beside us,
a textured green skeleton of trees gone by.
And as for me—to know what I knew of kudzu and still
believe the drive beautiful? How ignorant, how heartless.
But oh, how ravishing—those roads sick with vine.