On Gorham Mountain

On Gorham Mountain


There was a fire on Mount Desert Island
When I was one year old.
For eleven days it flamed and spread.
Where mountains come down to the sea
Their pine forests were burned away.
Westward they were left green.

When I was a child we would walk
On burned mountains with no woods,
The pink granite blackened and bare,
The trees charred stumps, around us
Low bushes, hot sun and open space,
The ocean stretching below.

We would cross a line to mountains
That had not been burned
And walk deep in pine woods
Dim, mossy and fragrant
By lakes and cool streams,
Seeing the ocean from the summit.

My father said the woods
On our burned mountains
Would be all grown back
When I had become old.
He is gone. That time is close.
O mountain where we used to walk,
I have come back to find you.

My mountain, you are green again.
Your path goes through spruce trees
Higher than the birch and aspen
Who grew first after the fire.
Only a searching eye can see
Soot-darkened stone and
Burned wood of hidden trunks.
Only from your high ridge
Can I see the ocean now.

The pines are still to come.
When they have grown tall
And your forests are dense,
I will be gone – like a tree
Consumed into air by fire.
But you, my mountain,
Will be in me still
Wherever I will live
And I will be here ever,
Still in you by the sea,
Burned and grown again.