Taking to the Hills

By Rachel Wetzsteon 1967–2009 Rachel Wetzsteon
If walking, like wine, only abets a sad mood
let’s try it, I said, and I did:
over these hills that have never known sorrow
no thoughtful moon passes. Dig until a hill is level, and unearth
only earth. Take pride in knowing the chemical makeup
of rain, the sum total of harmful vapors in any sunset.
For if you must drag in the old lines
about suicidal willows, star’s stacked for or against you,
you clutter a limitless, soaring landscape
with your own baggage. Night of love,
day of omens of night, great mountain
of realized hopes, valley where bitter winds
blow the dispossessed into raving lunatics—
what are they but shady projections
of passing whims, vastly oversimplified versions
of something infinitely greater? This vision before you
is nothing but a triad of trees, hills, river,
steadfast and eternal. But soon you start to feel restless
and when, setting out to take a roll of photos,
you note the disturbing absence of a road,
your suavity crumbles: you deafen the sky
and serenade the moon, fall prostrate before pines
saying oh, come back, spirit of the place which,
lifeless without you, blossoms into something
sumptuously more than mediating madness;
come back, massive oaks that await our coming;
to carve initials is to be truly human;
the days are dappled with our passions,
the mountains rise and fall with our glories and follies.

Rachel Wetzsteon, “Taking to the Hills” from The Other Stars, published by Penguin Books, Inc. Copyright © 1994 by Rachel Wetzsteon. Reprinted by permission of Sonja Wetzsteon.

Source: The Other Stars (Penguin Books, 1994)

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Poet Rachel Wetzsteon 1967–2009

Subjects Living, Time & Brevity, Activities, Travels & Journeys, Nature, Landscapes & Pastorals, Stars, Planets, Heavens

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 Rachel  Wetzsteon


Born in Manhattan, poet and editor Rachel Wetzsteon received degrees from Yale University, Johns Hopkins University, and Columbia University. She made her home in the Morningside Heights neighborhood of Manhattan, which is the setting for many of her formally assured poems. Influenced by Charles Baudelaire, Soren Kierkegaard, and Philip Larkin, Wetzsteon infused her urban and emotional landscapes with a dry wit. As critic Adam . . .

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SUBJECT Living, Time & Brevity, Activities, Travels & Journeys, Nature, Landscapes & Pastorals, Stars, Planets, Heavens

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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