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Sport 24: Summer 2000

Kerry Popplewell — Seeing the Red Hills again

page 114

Kerry Popplewell

Seeing the Red Hills again

Summer: and almost dusk
and we, coming down
a rustbrown gravel road
to an estuary
where the Cascade river bends west
to a guessed-at sea.

We paused by the saddle.
Below, shining coil
upon coil of water
splayed over rough grass flats
under a pale sky glinting white
between light cloud slats.

When we looked to the south
seeking out both source
and course of the water's flow
from cold spring to salt wave
I saw them again; and I knew
how few chances you have.

Nothing disguised those hills—
irrefragable rock,
bare resonance of red,
their ultramafic slopes held no
snow grass or herb bed.

page 115

I met those contours first
when, just seventeen,
a green and eager girl
bound up the swampy Pyke
glancing far north, ahead, I saw
each raw, distant spike

glow dark, spent-flax-stalk pink—
all right out of reach,
and each desirable;
then had to turn away
though intending, of course, to come
on some later day

to climb upon that range.
Now, strange as before,
and yes, more beautiful,
again they were there
but only for others to cross.
This loss I must wear

as emblem of all things
once possible, now
not. How fugitive
those futures, stowed with care
in some high attic of the mind's
dry, unkind air.