sheer back drop, stealing witness
from basalt cliff sides, the wonder away from postcard falls. Woodsman drops.
Anchored to cable,
he strips dogleg top from summer fir
before lowering past onlookers, caressing ice cream
on the lower bridge. Rain of dry lichen. With eyes closed,
bark bits cascading
from fresh cut, littering the trail’s first switchback.
Wind sweeps the gorge. Gray clouds blow out from the east,
where volcano’s broken back
form still slumbers. Dented shoebox reveals.
Open lid, bevel cut snaps,
wedding day, mountain still adhering
to solid form. Onlookers leer.
They brought lemonade to crow’s nests, crouched on tarpaper rooftops,
waiting on eruption.
One we still clean from our storm matted hair.
JUNE 19, 2015
Copyright 2015 by Erick Mertz
About This Poem
The broken back of Mt. St. Helens haunts the Columbia River Gorge, and surrounding areas, anything within view. As a lifelong Oregon resident and native, familiar with all the stories around the eruption, it’s difficult to look past the spectacle without acknowledging the underlying narrative. On a recent drive up and down the gorge, winding over the old highway, I found myself once again, crafting little tales about the day the mountain blew.
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