My grandfather built a cabin
into the side of a mountain,
above a river so old
they named her “new”.
Behind the house,
he built a staircase
to conquer the steep slope
of the looming mountain.
Coaxing us onward and upward to even higher ground.
I climbed it
over and over again
as a child.
Round, short legs
straining to match pace
with ones longer and stronger.
Always out of breath, but somehow breathing deeper.
Each breath bypassing my lungs and planting
roots in my feet.
The steps stop somewhere up ahead—
harder to see now that the trees have continued
to fulfill their heavenly commandment
I stand here older now.
Not old enough to claim any wisdom,
but young enough
to do it anyway.
I’m here now
looking for a poem.
to capture this part of my childhood
in more than just my memory.
Is it just a staircase?
Built by leathered, weathered hands
into the side of a mountain.
Or maybe, the metaphor is how
nature takes what we have
created and holds it close to her body.
Keeps it for us. Changes it, maybe, in our absence.
Creates something new for us. Like this poem.
Maybe, it’s just a staircase.
Maybe, it’s a story about death and the life after it.