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by Patrick Loafman


[ Where Names Vanish ]   [ Icarus ]

W here Names Vanish

Above the line of trees,
flowers bloom from a jumble of gravel,
lichen paints the stones vivid colors,
I watch a patch of snow become furry,
grow legs and walk.

For a moment I can't comprehend,
then a name comes:
mountain goat.
It bounds away
as quickly as I mouth
the word.

I scramble along the rocky slope
in pursuit. I bend to the earth
where its hooves dug into mud,
inhale the odor of animal.

At the edge of a cliff I sit a moment,
tossing rocks off into the fog,
snow paints my flannel shirt white,
my breath blows in puffs, thins,

Soon, I'm hiking the trail
down into the forest, then
I'm in a car speeding along a narrow road,
the radio broadcasting news.

Weeks, months, years pass,
time falls, paints my hair white,
but that moment is still there,
I'm still there.

And when you pick up the map, point
to a line winding up a mountain, ask,
What's this trail like? I pause,
return to that place in the fog.

My mind scrambles for words -
those blunt instruments
that carve primitive statues
among the nameless stones
of thought.

But only one word comes,
Mountain goat, I say,
I saw a mountain goat.

The word rides my breath,
dissolves into air, vanishes
like a stone thrown into a cloud.





The wind is from somewhere else
and it's always leaving. It brushes past you
in a rush, like a stranger you'll never know,
but it's as familiar as your words
riding on your breath.
Birds must believe in it as they leap off
with wings spread wide.

And sometimes on a ridge,
in late summer silence, as waves
of wind crash above treeline,
while my feet dangle off the edge of a cliff,
I inhale deeply that mountain air,
spread my arms, and feel it push under them,
invisible hands lifting me.

Looking down, I begin to believe
the wind would hold me, guide me
through the sky. Closing my eyes,
bowing my head, I imagine flight,
but the wind leaves
as quickly as it comes.

Gravity holds me tight to stones.
The mist of my breath vanishes into air.
Stones crack, crumble,

Ravens cackle from above.



 PATRICK LOAFMAN   is the author of a chapbook Song of the Winter Wren: Poetry of the Olympics . Loafman is a wildlife biologist who has been working in the Olympic Mountains of Washington for nine years.

"Both of these poems are from my chapbook Song of the Winter Wren .   "Where Names Vanish" is a poem from a hike up the Mount Storm King Trail in Olympic National Park. "Icarus" is titled after the Icarus in mythology, who flew too high with wings made of wax, and the sun melted away his wings, causing his fall. This poem was written on a ridge overlooking Grand Valley. Both of these poems attempt to describe how nature affects me deeply, but also reveal how inadequate language can be in describing such emotions."
- Patrick Loafman