The Way to Cold Mountain

Bach wrote his solo cello suites as études, not for performance.
Imagine, the arpeggios of the first prelude, forever private,
As if God had chosen to craft the stars behind a curtain of darkness.

The tree from which the cello was built continues leafing in chords.
The chords the cello hummed in its chest linger in the cave of the ear.
We may be breathing the air our own breaths touched, years ago.

Breath hurries from us like a rabbit springing through tall grass
In the sun-bleached fields of Being. But why worry about that?
Better to lie down in the grass, or better yet, dash through it ourselves.

Maybe the orchards we meet in childhood become the Eden we lost
Before we were born. But if that’s so, why am I not weeping
Under these blowsy peaches while I share their windfall with wasps?

Snowmelt swelled the stream, but the churning falls were warm.
Forgiveness is that way: you go in, expecting chill, but come out frothy
As a newborn. I could say more, but it’s cold. I’m going back in.

Han-Shan says the way to Cold Mountain runs through Cold Mountain.
I keep looking to see if there's a footpath through these trees.
Maybe if I wander down into that lonely valley there, I'll find it.

Temple Cone teaches English at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. His newest book is The Broken Meadow.

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