RIDING THE MOUNTAIN

Standard

From the top
you cannot go
straight down
or you’ll be killed.
You have to learn
to turn, traverse
the hill.  Much
depends on whether
it is nordic or alpine,
on how you bend,
or lift your heel,
or know the parallel.
Also figure on
the quality of snow–
pudding, powder, ice–
and just how well you
carry your own weight
at ten or twenty mph
or twice as much
if you desire to race.
You’ll need a taste
for cold high altitudes
and visions far
above the timberline.
Also a yen
to jump the moguls,
dip into the glens
as you go round
and down
and down around
the hush of sound
to where the end
comes into view
and schuss, schuss,
lean hard and whoosh
to a dead stop.
Then go back up again.

26 responses »

  1. What an exquisite poem! I love the structure and the sounds and, of course, the metaphoric weight of all that snow and schussing.

    • This is a sublimation of what once was a winter passion now rendered impossible, since I have traded my ski poles and boots for a cane and stepping to the tune of constant pain.
      Your favorable judgement of the poem–since you are indeed a professional connoisseuse of poetry–is worthy praise indeed, Natalie…and heart warming. Thank you!

  2. We work hard, network, perform and climb the corporate ladder. The zenith gives great views and we receive much. Every step from the top leads one way – down. Not many know when or even how to climb down. This cat-like ignorance soon leads to a humbling crash landing. These thoughts filled my mind – until I read that last sentence 🙂

    Peace,
    Eric

    • In my youth I was a member of a competitive women’s ski team. In that world, going up a mountain was trivial–a quick chair lift. Coming down was the challenge, and the art.
      I’m glad you liked that ending, Eric. Thank you, as always, for your support and good words.

  3. Well I just sent an appreciative comment, but my password was rejected and now am too frustrated to reconstruct what I wrote…more later, maybe

    • Oh, my! The gremlins at wordpress are at it again! That’s happened to me more than once, and I’m sorry it happened to you. Please know I appreciate that you came, that you read, and now I will imagine what you would have said, if you could have said it! Much love.

  4. Oh my Cynthia, this is such a visual poem! Even though I know nothing of skiing it still provides that sense of wonder. I can hardly imagine how it feels and the whole poem is a great metaphor, whether intended or not. That is how it felt for me.

    And it gave me some warm memories too, of cosy family Sundays watching Ski Sunday with our children. We never missed it and our son got his first conputer game called Ski Jump, a very primitive carry on compared with the present day games and just as the skier jumped you heard this “schuss” sound as you describe here! It seems like yesterday and must be thirty years ago!

    Im also thinking about Michael Schumacher.

    • You’re right, Christine. It began as a metaphor but extended into what prosodists call a “conceit”. Once I started skiing, it was all downhill! That’s interesting, about the ski jump computer game. I’m looking forward to this winter’s Olympic games…vicariously enjoying that schuss of lift-off when one becomes a soaring bird. I think of Michael Schumacher, too. The prognosis is not good. Whatever made him wander onto that Rocky terrain when there were safer trails on both sides? The exhilaration, the adrenalin high of alpine skiing could impair a person’s better judgement, I guess. (And my generation did it all without a helmet!) Thanks, Christine, for your visit today–as usual full of support, reminiscence, and fun.

      • Its like motor cycling and cycling even. And seat belts too! We wouldn’t dream of being without them these days! 😊 I just had to look up prosodist. Then I had to look up prosody! Its only the 3rd January and I have learned a new word this year!!

        • I think prosody, strictly speaking, concerns itself with the sounds and rhythms of poetry. I tend to use the word loosely to include visual effects too, i.e. traditional forms and rules governing a poem as a whole including figures of speech I think of as prosody. I probably got that habit from one of my favorite old books on the subject: John Ciardi’ s “How Does A Poem Mean.” Sound and rhythm are much neglected in a lot of poetry written today, in favor of the visual. I’m guessing a lot of folks don’t hear what they read.

          • Im learning lots! I guess that’s one of the reasons poetry needs to be read aloud. I have only read one of my poems aloud on a recording thing (soundcloud on my iPad) It was quite an eye and ear opener! I obviously always read a finished poem through, often quite a few times, though sometimes not many. But silently I read quickly. So when I read my poem on soundcloud I was reading as to an audience and line breaks, emphais, and other things needed changing. I am thinking of putting one on WP with an attached soundcloud recording just for fun and curiosity. But I need to learn how to do it first!

            • I don’t know, Christine…I’m not a big fan of social poetry readings (slams, open mikes at cafes, etc.). Even when I’ve been to hear some of my favorite famous poets read,–Robert Frost, William Stafford–somehow the physical voice of the poet, though lovable, didn’t always match what I thought of as the fine “voice” of the poem.
              Surely one should read one’s own poem aloud when composing. Given that, it would still be my preference–as a reader—to savor a poem one-on-one, just the voice of the poem and me as I read, perhaps slowly, perhaps many times. I believe lone writer and lone reader complete a single creative act.
              Not every poet can intone like Dylan Thomas, or Richard Burton, So many English accents and shrill, whiny or squeaky natural voices could spoil an otherwise beautiful poem.
              Apologies for opining on and on like this. You’ll be glad to know I’ve probably run out of “reply” spaces!

  5. Hi Cyn,
    Your poem arrived on my yahoo email, the first one to do so in months. How delighted I was to see and read it. I loved the word schuss and the concept of soaring, Having only been on skis once in my life and of course having fallen, I never tried the sport again. After reading your poem, I feel I missed out on the exhilaration of weaving and the adrenalin rush of this exciting sport. I think the poem spoke to me on a metaphorically level to recapture my sense of adventure that I used to have when I was in my twenties. Go for it is my motto for 2014!.! Again, I’m so happyto see this poem on my yahoo mail!!

    • Yahoo and yippee, you’re back in business again! I missed your ebullient comments. Hope you’re weathering this snowy weather in fine fettle. Sounds like you’re planning a new and adventurous new year….May it be so for us all…

    • You’re back! Hooray! (I’ve noticed a new anonymous reader from Spain appeared recently among my WP stats…so THAT’S where you’ve been!) Glad of your return, and thanks for the visit(s), Sarah.

  6. I agree about the importance of the sound and rhythm of a poem, Cynthia – and I love the whoosh and schuss of this one. Something in the continuous action and pace of it reminds me of Breughel’s dancers in The Dance by William Carlos Williams.

    • That’s interesting, John. I hadn’t made that connection but now that you mention it, I do. The dancers at the Kermess go round and round to the sound of their fiddles and tweedling bagpipes while my skier goes down and down around the hush of sound….The Williams poem appears on the page almost as a prose paragraph, but he gets his effect still through enjambment, while mine comes, I think, from very short lines, both ways of pushing the rhythm forward. No punctuation at the ends of lines also works in both poems…except that mine does end with a full stop, while the dance goes on forever…..Thank you for giving me this to think about, on the feast of The Epiphany!

    • I’m delighted you mention the layout as being “like a high hill”, Sheila; that was my intention. I cannot ski anymore, either, but I look forward to the vicarious pleasure of watching the winter Olympics. Also looking forward to shots from your recent holiday. Happy New Year!

  7. Much depends on whether it is nordic or alpine, or Formula One.

    (how life intrudes mercilessly upon art)

    Super schussing sounds, Cynthia. And isn’t that what poetry is all about?

    • Ah yes, Prospero, and isn’t it sad how a sweet sounding sonnet is so seldom spoken or sung among the touted tinkerers in tropes of our time…

      Off-piste skiing may afford an adrenaline high like that of Formula One, but if the skill is not commensurate, off-piste skiing could get you really piste-off….

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