Adam’s Notebook
Published in

Adam’s Notebook

Poem: ‘Elbruz Speaks’

Mount Elbruz
Douglas Freshfield, “The Exploration of the Caucasus” (1896)

I used to be alive, as all mountains were
with the living force that made us. I moved
slow as a stretching tree to greet the dawn
felt warmth upon my flanks, shook my stony head
to scatter avalanches down my back.
All of life alive in a living world.

But then a god came with his prisoner,
the foresight man, and fixed him to my flesh:
metal spikes through Foresight’s ankles and
wrists, anchored in my body — pinning him
so he couldn’t writhe free when the eagles flew
to unzip his skin, wrangle out his viscera
as he screamed and howled and begged for cease
birthing his liver in a wash of scarlet, lobes
poking through the gash in his side
to beak-pluck and rip and swallow down.

The healing hurt him even more, I think:
sobbing, moaning all night, as skittish rain
washed the blood off, and the fibres of his tissue
groped inside him like blindworms to reconnect:
the blob of his liver swelling back to fulness
for it to all happen again next day.

It changed me. How could it not? I watched
over and over, and each aquiline visit
made me a little less alive. Soon
I’d lost all flow and become the inertness
you clamber across today. Only know this:
I was not always thus. The witness is stained
and turned stone by what he witnesses.

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