Mountain Split; Fern Hollow Creek, Falls Ravine Trail


By Jen Ashburn

Mountain Split
                - Thórsmörk, Iceland

In the center of the mountain, we follow each other’s boots,
step weak-ankled on loose stones, arrive one by one
to the indifferent hospitality of the waterfall.

The crash of water vibrates through us.
Icicles dangle from moss walls and catch sunlight.
We stand between green shadows, and it feels like a reckoning,

a graffiti of my sins in the creek pebbles, my awkward ways
splayed open in the canyon split. We stand in neon jackets
with the arias of barbarians on our lips, the struggle

to sing pursuing us like a reluctant orgasm.
We stand in the center of the mountain
where ice and lichen thrive, and we open

our foolish human hearts to worship it.

Fern Hollow Creek, Falls Ravine Trail
                -Frick Park, Pittsburgh

A hurricane grows in the Atlantic with Florida
and all the Caribbean braced and boarded up

while here the sky is that unquenchable blue
and an impersonal breeze moves through the forest.

A jostling you might call it. Some leaves vibrate
like the reed of a clarinet, some lope in a detached

syncopation, and some float as if the wind were a sacred
water. Of course, no water is sacred     or all of it is.

If I pissed in this creek how long to reach
the Ohio        the Mississippi        the Gulf of Mexico?

A chipmunk clings to a red oak, frantic as ever,
and a butterfly rests passively on gray rock.

If I were a god I’d watch this world as the butterfly—
close to the ground and waiting with wings splayed.

Jen Ashburn is the author of the full-length poetry collection The Light on the Wall (Main Street Rag, 2016), and has work published in numerous venues, including The Writer’s Almanac, Chiron Review, The MacGuffin and Whiskey Island. She holds an MFA from Chatham University, and lives in Pittsburgh.