by Jonathan Travelstead
Weeks in the Chattahoochee and Nantahala Forest,
all you have is this shadowbox of mountains,
balds, and gaps:
Hawk, and Springer. Blood Mountain–
where you watched from the shelter as a black bear
solved your trucker’s hitch, snuffled your food,
taking nothing. Gooch, Tray,
Cowrock, and Blue.
Coming up for air, you summit
the few bare places, then survey the panorama
of nameless places lost in the sea of green.
Siler, Wayah, and Wesser Balds. Swim, and Cheoh.
Flat points where the base of mountains meet,
pauses between notes.
Hightower, Horsebone, and Flatrock Gap.
Hogspen. Unicoi, Mooney, Glassmine, and Tesnatee.
Winding Stair, and Swinging Lick.
Panther. Licklog, Burningtown, and Tellico.
Simp, Stecoah, and Sweetwater.
Cable, and Black Gum.
Their naming is its own sweet music–
the scribbled crossings, summits, and roundabouts
of a wannabe musician who doesn’t know his instrument,
but hopes one day he will be lost in it,
able to take a bearing by the spoken sound
of landmark alone.
Jonathan Travelstead served in the Air Force National Guard for six years as a firefighter and currently works as a full-time firefighter for the city of Murphysboro. Having finished his MFA at Southern Illinois University of Carbondale, he now works on an old dirt-bike he hopes will one day get him to the salt flats of Bolivia.