“THERE’S NO THROUGH TRAIL” —HAN-SHAN, TRANSLATED BY GARY SNYDER
/ Alpenglow

Alpenglow

by Megan Russell

1

the eve of another fall and i am punching holes
in the sky with my sneakered feet,
a swingset-chain-link-hand-hold on

childhood. which is the longest run-on sentence ever,
until it isn’t.
and then for the lucky, comes the next part, maybe.

2

a swallow tail is worth something
when spotted over sea but here,
where the air makes chip bags bloom,
salt across the shards,
i hang my head low to avoid the swoop.

a split tree, lightning kissed,
falls in the forest and the sound
is october air crisp, vinegar sting, ricocheting.

3

i think i would make a good cicada, a great
one, even. a decade, or two, of brooding
then an unbroken summer scream:

i am here until i won’t be.

i want to know the world as it knows me,
right back. to the bone.
the meadow has known me my whole life,
for me this means forever.
for her, this is just a bat of an eye.

4

i cut the tassels off of my bike handles
when i was nine. my arrivals no longer marked
by fluttering holographic tinsel and

a playing card meeting my spokes,
a three of hearts.

the joke here is that i regretted it the moment it happened,
and when i think of being nine i think about
how much i miss being eight.

5

the hot, sizzling thing inside me
evaporates the velvet of morning dew
in the recesses of myself.

i want to be soft, i want to be
alpenglow,
soft orange spreading over all i know.

but is the ivy not as much part of the story as
luminescence? aren’t the itchy, overgrown parts of me
just as natural as the peach shimmer, tucking itself in behind peaks,
like auburn strands behind ears,
the reward for seeing the end of another day?

i braid my hair before raising the kitchen scissors,
as a final act of tenderness towards the thing being killed.

listen, i will swallow a brick building one moment,
become the sun the next.

6

i listen to myself think which is a fruitless game
in which the only prize is to play again.
          and again. and again.

what i’m trying to say, i guess, is
i want to make more of myself.

but you can’t say that a party,
across rosemary sprigs swirling in cocktail glasses,

the chickadees here sing to hear their own melody,
encouraging the need to speak about how pleased you are with yourself.

anything else, and the birds turn to rabbits
with blank stares, dark marbles caught in high beams
before darting away.

and i remain, white-knuckled at the steering wheel,

iron-heavy-foot-brake-to-the-floor,
my heart a scratched cd from my youth skipping in my chest.
one of those things you should throw away.

the glove compartment is a time capsule.
some would say a graveyard.

oh, but how i love this song.

7

i grew up a girl,
i grew up in a sinking forest, soggy pine smell and wet socks.

i grew up [a] girl,
mountain steady and lightning vicious,
every summer a rebirth.

and when the fires come,
may i touch the thing inside me that burns as well,
and welcome the reincarnation of a landscape once
thought to be known.

Megan Russell

About Megan Russell

Megan is a Pacific Northwest raised writer who has found creativity and community in Southern California. She has previously been published for her poetry, science-fiction, and film photography, and is a former TEDx speaker. She enjoys sunny days spent with her cat, Phoebe, and a good book.

Cold Mountain Review is published once a year in the Department of English at Appalachian State University. Support from Appalachian’s Office of Academic Affairs and College of Arts and Sciences enables CMR’s learning and publications program. The views and opinions expressed in CMR do not necessarily reflect those of university trustees, administration, faculty, students, or staff.