Gris-Gris, an online journal of literature, culture & the arts

The Mountain

by Tina Kessinger

At lunch near the plaza,
the mountain rising blue
and misted behind you,
we talk of the malignant
seed that grew quietly
in your loins for years
before it flowed into the warm
river of your blood.

Seventy-three, you say you can’t complain
of the surgeon’s knife, biopsies,
chemo-therapy. There’s a woman
in your support group,
nineteen years old, dying.
You shake your fist
at the rattling sky. That’s obscene!
Your voice rises and claws
at the clouds, indignant
as a flock of startled crows.

I remember a night in childhood
when you held me up to a window
pointed out into the darkness
at some bit of magic;
a comet, a unicorn – maybe
it was just the moon.

The July clouds boil above us,
shake down the scattering rain.
no one’s ever ready to die
I say, reaching
for some bit of certainty.

What can we say about death?
It is a mountain, implacable,
unmoved by the infinitesimal
assault of words.

Tonight, before you return home,
you will see Madama Butterfly,
the knife plunging
into her moon-white breast,
the aria of her last breath
a brilliant bird
soaring into the darkness.