Poem: Between Hills That Were and Hills That Are
Updated: May 29, 2019
Between Hills That Were and Hills That Are
I can’t remember the boy
Who passed through the windshield.
Never before, nor after—acquaintance
At a party, arguing with some other stranger,
Shoved out the door they then both were gone.
Walking wild, someone recalled, afterwards,
Willing his scored and blind body forward.
Which is more dreaded : the gruesome
Thing that is, or a thing so innocent, soon
Become gruesome? Some few weeks
The mark went road to field—
Tread and blood, blended. Smoking.
Rather, road to orchard—quiet summer
Approaching the groves. Come, farmer,
Woken from your sleep to tend to an unknown boy.
It must be enough that we have no answers;
No tool exists with which to prune back to
A weak-stemmed beginning.
But then the mark left us, after a while.
What did the beautiful hills have to say?
The near hills that define that road,
That unnatural tunnel through the trees. The words are out there : Half the orchard bare, half of it sick with blooms.
I was living in Crozet, Virginia before it became another Charlottesville bedroom community... I was living over a quasi-Italian restaurant run by a Turkish man. The place was called Ombra's; I cooked there sometimes.
I was living with strangers. The windows were always open. Someone was growing marijuana in a tin-foiled closet. I could never get familiar with anyone. We had parties and woke up days later, stuck to the floor. It was hot, and once, someone left chicken out. It took days to clear out all the maggots.
I remember wandering the empty streets at night. The area had once been home to numerous and productive apple farms, and a large cold storage stood by the train tracks running through town. It had been converted into an old folks home when I lived there.
I dated a single mother who tended bar at a place on the corner, across from the old folks home. She was a dream, and we had nothing in common. She was 25; I was 19. Some mornings, 4a.m., we would drive up the the Skyline Drive and she would cry for a long time. I would try to comfort her, but my heart wasn't in it. I wanted to cry, too.
This event, this young man's death, things like this happened more than they should have. They say there was a long blood trail, and then bloody footprints leading off into an orchard. They were amazed he made it as far as he did.