The Mountain & Other Poems

by Gonzalinho da Costa

The Mountain

Climbing is like lifting a weight, hand over hand, using a pulley. Marathoner in a trance, you ascend rapidly as time slows to near motionlessness.

Trees rustle, rice husks pushing back and forth to dry. Desiccated brush, smallish bundles, tumble downward, roll about. Bamboo thickets, agitated brooms, shiver.

Dislodged by your feet, tiny stones hurtle, soaring arcs increasing in velocity downhill, click-clacking glass marbles knocking together, gradually fading, scattering into silence.

At this height air is rarefied fire. Atop the mountain birds hover overhead, transfixed by the sun more brilliant than a sorcerer’s spell, flanked by clouds, bright balls of electricity.

Strong gusts sand your face roughly, a stone. The wind is cold, the eye of an ascetic just returned from a visit to the dead, fiercely gazing, an eagle clutching a small animal.

The vast plain below mirrors the sky, wet paddies flashing crystal polygons, jewelry turning side to side. Far into the distance, short hills squat, huge emerald droplets, whilst the river, a glittering bracelet, empties into an ocean of light.

Breathless, you are a broken wheel on the wayside. You will climb the mountain again, spellbound by the expenditure of controlled energy, delighted by the sting of sharp gravel underfoot.


The River

Yesterday the river was lapping at my feet like an old man tapping out a message about time flowing downward from hills remote as hawks.
Today he rises slowly, a momentous pulse pushing seaward, fed by faraway pistons.
At the waterside where air is fresh as a pear, a sweet mist glides forward like a perfumed wrist.
Islands of floating plants drift, joining into continents, rearranging in serpentine tattoos.
Beneath the surface glittery like so many exploding firecrackers, fish swirl, shadowy limbs of an athlete smoothly cutting back and forth.
Denizens gather at the riverbanks in spoonfuls, sprinkling laughter farther than droplets shot from spinning umbrellas.
Distantly a lizard pokes its head into the sun, jerking left and right, vainly divining a future obscured by brightness.



This time of year is a spear of broken grass, dryly curling like famine.

The wind droops, feverish. Tufts of old bread strewn about are picked at by hopping birds wielding knives.

High above, the sun wears a scorching beard, hair crackling, his puffy face, angry red.

Scornfully, the sky holds itself aloof, cerulean—the color of cruelty—unsullied by the gathering promise of rain.

Darkness rushes in at low tide of daylight. Black hordes silently clatter weapons.

Moonlight rises long and slender as a cold fish, flint head glinting in silvery water.

Momentary, this desert: a puff of dust exploded by a gusty fist.


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