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Chimney Rock, November 1998

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On the edge of Chimney Rock,

the mountains jut their hard edges into sharp focus,

then fade into plum-colored mounds,

each tucked tightly against the next.

My feet dangle over Red River Gorge,

strain to touch the treetops smeared across each mountain.

Their spindly branches give the surface

a fuzzy glow from this distance.

Beside me a pine tree grows; its roots snake over rock.

Thick, intestine-like tubes hug tightly to the mountain,

plunge into the dirt just above the stone as

serpentine offspring thread their way underground–

form a system of veins and capillaries

which runs throughout this summit.

If I sit here long enough, perhaps the roots will overtake me as well,

permeate my skin, flood my body with water and terra,

punch through skin.

Tree branches bend easily for the wind,

which swoops up from the gorge below,

hitting me with its hollow sound,

as if surprised by me, suddenly in its path.

It would like to sweep me over the edge.

It knows that I do not belong here.

The cold of million-year-old earth has seeped through denim,

and the wind blowing from some hollow below

is restless for my space.

The path going back was once solid asphalt;

its porous surface provides the foothold

that the rain-smoothed ground did not.

Now, the earth pulls away from the asphalt trail,

repelled by the foreignness of it,

leaving deep fissures on either side of the footway

as I walk to my truck and camp below,

somewhere between the wind and the water.

-Kathryn Cody

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