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Hear the Ridge’s Song
A prayer for the preservation of the Cradle Rock
boulder area on the Princeton Ridge,
where the piedmont meets the coastal plain
and the growing season lasts half the year. 1992
When the bud sheathes burst and fell,
I started from the tall pine
at the center of the village
and walked toward the setting sun,
crossing the bottomland
and climbing the great ridge.
The hardwoods leaned into the land,
and higher still, the stones
rose up from the ground.
I began to dance for them—
with Dogwood, Chipmunk, Wren,
and others, dancing as one
into a hollow where we found
the elders gathered in a throng,
hunched backs of diabase and basalt,
still hard at work from rain
to rain, singing the forest's song.
Then, I was looking up into the air,
alone, trying to recall the fault
that held me captive there
in the shadow of my pain.
A fire swept across the canopy,
and the darkness in its wake
was feathered black on black
with bony claws for stars.
The vulture who makes her nest
under the boulder where I fell
hooked her beak into my tongue.
All night she told me to her young,
and then at dawn, to show
that her account is never done,
though older even than the stones,
she let me rise and run
back to the village
in my ribbons and my bones.