FROM THE MOUNTAIN

Athol WIlliams

FROM THE MOUNTAIN

He looked like he was thinking but really, he was dying;
not dying in the way you and I die – he didn’t believe
in the tedious fantasy of death and graveyards.
He was approaching an incomplete ending, a novel
run out of twists, a life emptied of questions.
He was dying as silence grew, as everything went dim,
a mist that muffled the song from the mountain,
that song that rained upon his tongue in the desert
of his grey years. It awoke a fear in him, the dimming,
a fear of fading, of being something other, other
than what he had always known, only known.
“Can we be anything other than what we have known
ourselves to be?” he had asked, of no-one. The silence,
growing, began blackening the pictures that he held.
The impossible, inevitable darkness crawled toward him,
stared at him, nodding, as if to say “yes, I am that
which you fear.” He denied its grip, even as it tightened
around his throat – dimmer the song, blacker the pictures
stored for safe-keeping in his breast pocket.

There was no voodoo to his hearing the mountain sing –
moody volcanoes rumbled beneath the great outcrop,
and tectonic plates shifted like dinosaurs stirring
in their sleep. Perhaps it was their dreams that he heard
echoing in time bent along planes foreign to us.
On most days the mountain did not sing. Mostly it
merely hummed. At times he heard Celtic tunes
like butterflies in jerky dance across strings.

He had thought about death once and the great bliss.
“It’s all suicide,” he blasted, “from the moment we
are born we are dying, dying at our own hands.” His
grey philosopher’s beard waved in the evening breeze
as he sat on the ledge overlooking the city of love
and wondered about the great bliss, that brief,
magical moment before the darkness that brings
the brightest light, like the great bliss of orgasm
before the end of love. “There is always one last
orgasm before love dies,” the old man had written
in many of his convoluted texts. He had wanted to run
to the edge of life and stop before the fall. He wanted
to know. With his life his laboratory he jumped
the 6-floor experiment – sky, street lights, cars, road,
but no bliss, no death, only pain, fuelling his disbelief.

We don’t think about what lies there on the other side,
but he did, though he tried not to. The images kept
visiting him – the water’s edge, the garden hedge
with moths flickering moonlight in the teasing gaps.

“Silence grows the further we look ahead.
Silence grows the more life we imagine
but realise we’re running dry,” his final gibberish.
Looking like he was thinking he sat dying
beneath the black canopy dotted with curious eyes
of other worlds. With everything cracked
he couldn’t tell silence from song.

FROM THE MOUNTAIN