Mother, today I met a man.
We drank chocolate in the square. He showed me his drawings. Then he led me
to the farthest wood to meet an old friend. It was a tree. Mother, he was lonely. He
had a penknife and I found a stick and the mountain watched and said nothing.
I dreamt I was a large spoon racketing the walls of an empty tin pail.
Mother, there is no sign of disease yet all these warnings.
All night roosters keen and the churches won’t stop belling. All night the dogs despair,
cry out from one to the next, until they have strung a net of worry over us all. I pull shut the curtains and still the mountain sees.
Mother, they say you must ask the mountain permission. The people throw small
lights at its feet and bright tiny flags.
If the mountain were just one man, I would beat it with a stick.
Mother, I’m not myself. On the first day, a volcano sank into my eye. On the first day, I made a small church of my tears.
I bought gold shoes so I might fly.
He was a penknife, I was a stick, Mother, was he so lonely? The men call the mountain beautiful. The women quiver, sometimes.
I dreamt a feather flew under my door. The beer ran black and I ate with strangers.
And when I screamed, paper flowers grew from out my mouth.
It goes like this with mountains, with men: he rises, I sink.
Mother, when I sleep, the mountain takes a step closer.
I don’t sleep, Mother. All night the cats lament in the street, they lament. Their throats
are knotted grief.
Mother, what is a man—
Kristina Bicher is a poet, translator and essayist whose work has appeared or is forthcoming in Ploughshares, Denver Quarterly, Hayden’s Ferry, Narrative, Barrow Street, Painted Bride Quarterly, The Atlantic, and others. She earned degrees from Harvard University and Sarah Lawrence College.