[from Muddy Prints, Water Shine]
The fog that shrouds Pilot Mountain
dims our chance to see hawks kettle,
so we hike around Big Pinnacle on trails
where brown signs mark beginnings
and red-lettered signs suggest
the possibilities of injury or death.
Trails bracketed by rail fence
descend by steps of orange stone
to sandy windings, rocky ground
where twigs extend from pitch,
where long-haired caterpillars inch
across the leaves of laurel, and where webs
the shape of shallow sacks hang down
from water-spangled threads.
Sudden gusts shake drops from trees —
chestnut, oak, persimmon.
Rainbow lichens cover quartzite,
a towering dome,
climbing the rocks is forbidden
while ravens nest.
Red, white, yellow mushrooms
speckle the forest floor,
fungus grows in staggered layers
(childishly stacked plates).
When the fog begins to lift
we climb to stand for hours
amid the whirling swifts and monarch flutter.
Vultures — turkey and black —
converge and circle
gnarled and blasted trees.
Through glasses we spy warblers
in a leafy tangle — tseeta tseeta rising
from ribbed, spotted, pure throats.
Finally the heavens clear.
One by one the broad-winged hawks —
white stripes on their tails,
black bands on their wings —
remind us of what we may mourn
as they soar out of the north