Duff by M. Daniel McCrotty

Cutting a trail across the chest
of Whitehouse Cliff, the lead man
told us to chop down through the top
layer of leaves and good loam 
held together by lithe pallets of roots
and dark soil into the rock and sand below 
so the trail would not fall away 
but would hold firm and bleach
with each successive season of heat and snow.
He called the mats of roots and foliage 
duff, said it must get scraped off 
to leave a lasting mark, peeled back 
like a blanket lest the hillside reclaim 
the path into itself through the bleedhealing
of erosion. And so quiet seepage troughs 
receive redirection, the path to the distant 
headwall made straighter, footholds secured.

M. Daniel McCrotty lives in Knoxville, Tennessee. He received an MA from East Tennessee State University with a focus on Appalachian Poetry. His work has previously appeared in Appalachian Review, Jelly Bucket, The Mildred Haun Review, and Foothill Journal among others.

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