it was evening, nightless moon,
when he left
to scale the granite mountain
that loomed near the home
of ancestry,

with prayers packed in his fire bucket,
hand on rocks amidst clatter and quiet

his form seemed an urgent etching
against the immovable
to the owls’ eyes that watched from perches

someone long before
had told him:
the best altars are nearest sky, closer
to angel swoop and to the sun
where that Elsewhom he didn’t believe
waves a reigning scepter

at the summit, he built like ancient peoples
his ladder of stones
and lit his fire

after he laid his smoking gifts
on the drifting clouds, and pasted moss
with wild whispers that spoke of longings,
he deeply sank into sleep

when day broke on his face,
the valley shone below, rays
reaching onto his house of children,

and inside that holiness
of answered pleas, the forest surround
began to sway with hopesong


(c) J. Celan Smith