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Long Beach, CA

When I Was Young in the Mountains

Poetry Blog

When I Was Young in the Mountains

Brandon Cook

Actually, I never lived in the mountains
But the brand’s the thing

I was young, of course, we all were
And startled
By the light of this green world

I lived by meadows, that’s true enough
But you’d hardly call the hill a mount

It was good for sliding down, though
I can still feel the ice freezing my hands

It cut me like a dagger
The winter would rip your skin

And in the cutting
Something was let in:

You knew you were alive then
With blood dripping down

You didn’t know you’d always be chasing
Ever after
Something to make you feel the same way

Something as true as that racing pain
You could stay just one step, one slide, ahead of

If pain’s the tutor of the soul
His truth, at least, is easy to learn:
“This is real,” he says
“This means something and matters”

And if you know that, you can hold all things
Like water’s held in a bowl
And then you can let it all go

When I was young in the mountains
I learned all I’d need to know

But it wasn’t long ‘til I moved to the town
And things move on from thing to thing

Worse, people will become things
And if you let that winter happen

Well, there’s no spring behind
Nothing coming to redeem it

And when the singing’s gone,
What’s left?  Just standing in line

Keeping your head down
Running ‘round and ‘round

Trying to get what’s next
Trying to not get ground up

Because that’s life
And what life becomes

But when I was young in the mountains?
I was the king of the land

Hands bleeding, the whole world in front of me
Some pain that said, “Don’t get numb, kid,”
Teaching me

I just didn’t know how numb a pain can be
Couldn’t know such realities

When I was spinning in joy
The winter cracking my lungs open

The pain teaching me that to feel
Is what’s real, even if it’s hell

And then, after that winter
The spring coming with so much sap
The smell of green would take your hand

Make all good and bright inside you
Renewing the land, and you with it

For years now, words have slipped from me
Beneath this longing that can’t be laid in words

To slip from this place
To slip from this, the unreal
Where all is numbed and tame and plain

Back to that hill
That I can slide down
Where I can find again that letting in

That letting go that holds you
And lets you hold it

Your hands frozen
Your soul, unzipped, alive,
Shaken and unshaken

Your heart quaking
For how real it all is
And how much it means
The pain of everything meaning everything
Its sting speaking, being, revealing