White Chief Canyon

by Paul J. Willis

A steep climb to the crushed cabin,
rusty litter of mining tools
under the trees, and the creek
in the pasture is rocky and dry.

But corn lily grows
lush like a lost patch of a lone pioneer,
and silver trunks lie pitched
across the sunburnt grass

under the bare flanks of granite,
a reminder of avalanches that come,
like the one set off in 1906
by the earthquake in San Francisco,

or the one in the winter of ’69,
enough to discourage Walt Disney
from building a restaurant
and ski lift here, while I sit

alone with the lodgepole pine
on the verge
of this breeze-freshened meadow,
grateful for every place that is wild.

—Sequoia National Park

—from Say This Prayer into the Past

Poem of the Month: July 2014

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