Coming Down the Mountain Before Dark

by Adrianne Kalfopoulou

The car had gas but maybe not enough,
a man who sat, a distance
from the pump, was nonchalant about my
question of the way – how long,
how far – he took his time
since time, it seemed,
was on his side, or on this mountain side
his life was fixed by seasons and their rhythms.
While I was always in some hurry,
a barely uttered fervor to beat the fear
that I would miss my chance
to reach my stop, and there find some respite,
from what I thought, as I came down
the curves of sheer rock heights
all bathed in blue-glazed light.
Black crows flew high above
the silvered trees, a clutch of women passed
a roadside icon stand where some soul lost a life
and someone kept a wick alive,
reminder of a he or she who’d slipped,
veered off or fallen from the cliff
I was so rapidly driving past – it left
a shiver down my back to think
how unexpectedly all falls to dark –
the trees lose their clear shapes, the sun slips
down the mountain ridge, and
in its spreads of reds a single clump of bush
or sudden trunk is etched against a burning sky
– I wanted to find my way
before the pitch of black
would hide these narrow, curving twists,
the way a village street appeared, and then
the open asphalt road again – some shops
waved by, a butcher’s sign,
swathes of forest pine.
While I was anxious at the wheel
the breaths of air slid down my arms,
the hours ahead would bring me home,
I should relax, enjoy the ride,
but I was tense, my bearings lost.
I might forget the way, it was this heavy sense
that left me quite afraid – I slowed to ask
a group of men sitting at a roadside bend,
if this was right, the turn I took.
The light was almost gone,
the road now dark.
A man chewing on a piece of gristle
kept nodding “yes” while I
wishing I could enjoy the meal with them,
instead, impatient, alone tonight,
since it was night,
strained hard to see the road ahead,
more flat but still unlit,
and named the scents that filled the dark,
lavender and thyme, the sudden stench
of copria which fertilized the fields.
I let them in, let night wash through,
but feared the lure. I’d hoped to keep ahead
– of what? The dark? Yet here it was.
There was a truck in front,
the passing often blinding lights
raced by, it wouldn’t take much
to lose my grip as I kept gauging where I was,
sometimes too near the truck,
or swerving to the middle of the road
realized the threat, like sex
I felt a sudden thrill, remembered
a praying mantis, the bee it caught
inside a blossom’s heart – it ate with such intent,
consumed the body till there was nothing left.

Published on May 22, 2014