The Mountain

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Barranco de Viznar

Men came to the mountain. There had been an incident, a car outside, a knock on the door as dinner was set.

The curtain was peeled back, the door was unlocked, Yes? said someone. You know what it is we want, said another.

May I see your papers? said someone. No, said the other, our papers are in order, Will you come out to the car?

Men came to the mountain as the shadow crept down its slope in a slow tide & the rows of olives went under.

Men came to the mountain, the lights of their cars picking out shadows slowly dancing around the trees & rocks.

Men came to the mountain with their thoughts & their uniforms & a pen leaked black ink into a man’s pocket

across a photograph of his children & another caught his jacket in the car door as it closed & said: Joder.

Men came to the mountain, the lights of their cars picking out ruts in the road glittering with water & frogspawn,

the flash of a swallow across the beam, dense branches in the glare, a spider curled in death like a dry leaf.

From down in the valley beneath the tight terrace of olive trees, the voices of children crying Marco! Polo! Tierra!

Nadie! rose with the scents of alpechín & mimosa, the smoke from small diffuse fires in the fields, the lights of the city.

Men came to the mountain; some blindfolded in dirty smocks & some in neat eyeglasses with oiled hair

& bored expressions checking their watches & tapping the ends of their cigarettes briskly against their watch faces.

Men came to the mountain. The mountain did not move. Things moved on the mountain; the trees & their shadows,

but the mountain did not move. The stars rose & fell behind the mountain but the mountain did not rise & fall.

Each day, shadows gathered in the hollows of the mountain & the shadow of the mountain lay down in the valley.

Things changed on the mountain, but the mountain did not change. In winter its slopes were covered in thin snow,

in autumn the trees on its facing slope stood naked; in spring they were clotted in green & the hard noise of birds

passed between them like saetas with cleverly jointed verses & progressions & a light wind stroked the branches.

Men had built a shrine on the mountain with a little tiled dome & whitewashed walls & filled it with images & candles

& on their way up the mountain some stopped to light a candle & watch the red wax melt & drip onto the floor.

Others had dug a well into the mountain & ran a bucket on a windlass down into the rock & stood in the white heat

with their hats in one hand & sweat coating their hair drinking the icy waters of the mountain with their eyes closed

& their faces raised as if they had stepped from a dark room into the sun & felt wind on their faces for the first time.

The dull brown underwing of an eagle set the terror of its shadow in motion through the horns of the rock.

At night they dreamed their childhoods in the shadow of the mountain; of their fathers as children playing

on the mountain; how their own children would grow in the shadow of the mountain walking up the mountain

beneath a sky that arranged itself around the shoulders of the mountain, waiting for rain that gathered

above the mountain, wind that poured down the arms of the mountain, laying seed in the soil at the foot of the mountain.

Men came to the mountain. Some stayed on the mountain & some left the mountain by way of the slow road

that winds down the mountain circuitously; but even those that came down the mountain stayed on the mountain

without knowing they stayed on the mountain. When their children looked into their eyes, they saw the mountain.

Their wives saw the mountain. When they talked – about the news & work, about the difficulties of procuring

certain comestibles & fabrics for their mothers-in-law, about paperwork & politics & money & the weather –

they talked only about the mountain. About the height of the mountain & the long winding road up the mountain

that ended against a face of the mountain above which rose another face &, it was said, the mountain’s invisible peak.

Above the city was the mountain. Time changed on the mountain; aspects & colour, but the mountain never changed.

Above the world was the mountain, the silence of the mountain, the mountain of the mountain, a line of cyclamen

in the darkness closing their dull white eyes as the sun rose behind the mountain & it was light before it was light.