The Old Man in the Mountain
came crashing down one night
and lay tragically in bits of rubble
that rangers discovered at dawn.
At the base of the mountain, shards and dust.
And he’d been really something.
Signs on the road near Franconia, New Hampshire
used to say Old Man Viewing a quarter mile ahead.
There were plenty of old men
at the Walmart and the VFW
but the signs insisted so cars turned off
and people stood around looking dutifully up
at the craggy mountain’s weathered face.
They clicked their cameras, picked up postcards,
felt they’d been somewhere, seen something
remarkable, made of stone.
My own father never got a chance
to be an old man. His hair never thinned.
He never developed a wattle or those brown spots
that crop up on the back of people’s hands.
They say he’s ashes now
but that box of dust has nothing to do
with the man he was.
During his life he accumulated
many neckties he disliked wearing
and a dozen cheap pairs of flip flops
that said, You can relax now.
And a Purple Heart and the 1949 edition
of the Encyclopedia Britannica
and a wife who wished for a washer and dryer
instead of reference books.
Now they’re both dust.
How can anyone believe that?
I try to imagine they’re both within me
but the truth is, I don’t know,
I just don’t know where they’ve gone.
The vacuum cleaner man
convinced us of our disintegration just last week
when he used his appliance to suck up
layers of dead skin from the mattress.
He spread gray residue on a sheet of paper—
thin dusty flakes of what we were yesterday
or last week or the night Marty tried to explain
how the normal is always drawn
perpendicular to the surface of reflection.
I still don’t get it.
The salesman showed us
what feeds on us, the dust of us—
mites that look like hairy potatoes
with claws and fangs
when they’re magnified 1,000 times.
I almost bought the vacuum cleaner
but I thought, thirty years from now
or twenty, or ten—what will it matter?
What feeds on us is dreams
and if they look like alien invaders
when they fall away
maybe that’s how the process works.
So I didn’t buy it, can you blame me?
I turned instead toward the kitchen,
ate a dozen fresh cherries, licked the juice
from my fingers. This is life,
I said to myself as I spit out the pits.
chisels and blasts
(though on his right hand
two fingers are missing)
he’s tireless, a piston
(so what if he coughs)
within earthen walls
that cramp and
comfort like the womb
and challenge him—
denim and wool
(into his bones,
it feels like)
but he reaches
far into himself
the singed hair smell
left by the blasting)
into the well
of gleaming rock
(if he lets his guard
down, he knows
this will be
he can hear
he drills, digs
and from the rich
a bit of his own
—Ginny Lowe Connors, West Hartford, CT