Cairns by Matthew Gilbert
to remember. The slog of boot prints
through rocky paths, burrs and char
of summer burnings sticking
to your clothes, legs lichened
with scabbed over switch stripes.
They won’t let you forget:
years of catching your breath
when rain pushed you downward,
or slipping gravity of muddy banks,
branches snapping under your weight,
body of a broken songbird
pushed too early—pale wings flap.
You scoop it in your hands,
calm it with slow, steady rhythm.
The flutter doesn’t last to the summit.
You mark it under a pile of twigs.
This is the song of mountains,
true as open air. The world
will never know those blood stains.
Rain begins to wash them away.
Matthew Gilbert is a native Virginian turned Tennessean who enjoys writing that pushes the boundaries between writing and lived experience. His works appears in Delta Poetry Review and Across the Margin, among others, and his work is forthcoming in The Southern Poetry Anthology Vol IX: Virginia, and I Thought I Heard A Cardinal Sing: Ohio’s Appalachian Voices. Find him on Twitter @GilbertMatthewL