Snow in the Morning
By Cathy Song
The couple is traveling up the mountain.
They have been traveling a long time to get to the mountain.
They left early with their son who strums
sweet songs with his fingers,
songs his mother sang when she was young,
singing sweetly like him for all that was yet to come.
In the morning they saw snow on the mountain,
waking as if to another country,
far away from rain on the island of orchids
where smoke is indistinguishable from mist, rain from stone.
They wanted to get there before the snow melted,
before it vanished like a memory.
They left early, leaving the house they had built
in the forest, the house that had aged with them,
skin as dry as the logs they threw into evening fires.
Before the son could talk, he walked among the trees,
dreamed where roots lifted as if to let the earth breathe,
resting to the sounds of his parents pulling, clearing, dragging,
the sounds he later understood as what needs tending.
The boy would climb the ladder to the loft,
survey the trees and, peering through a curtain of leaves,
proclaim himself ruler of all that he saw.
His mother and father moved in and out of the mist,
lumpy shadows lifting rocks, carrying water, planting
heart-shaped flowers, speaking wordlessly to each other.
The boy is alone in the back seat as they drive past
the tin-roofed town, the market where under blue waves of tarp
orchids spray out of buckets,
bananas hang like tropical chandeliers,
coffee beans slide down waxy pyramids
and vendors fan at the jeweled flies,
keeping fish on ice.
His fingers pluck single notes,
random at first and then combined
as if his fingers could find a way to string
his thoughts the way the road progressed
past the last house, the last fern, the last
tree sparkling fireworks of red blossoms.
Pickup trucks hauling snow speed down the mountain,
racing to unload the precious cargo
for children who will run from TV sets
to fall like angels in small fenced yards.
The man is thinking about another woman
as he climbs the slopes into clouds.
It is all confusion — a whiteout he must negotiate,
the puny engine unsuitable for the elevation, the dangerous road conditions.
The woman is wondering how she will ever be able to leave him.
The boy strums the guitar, strums and looks out the window.
They break into sky, a blue unimaginable in the dome of the forest.
The white glare hits their eyes like splintered glass.
Clouds erupt in a thousand directions,
tumbling below them like a cascade of white water.
Observatories rise above the snow.
At this hour, even though the gigantic lenses are shut,
someone is watching the stars,
predicting the trajectory of orbits
spinning out of control.