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

October Augury

by Michael Waterson

Roused from sleep by buffeting winds,
I shuffle in darkness to gaze out at Orion, 
locked in pursuit, ascendant now, 
on the eve of the Hunter’s Moon,
as Diablo winds gust 
from parched land, scattering 
withered gatherings 
with summer’s last scorching gasp, 
threatening fire before succumbing to winter’s bludgeon. 

Already my dream—an old woman 
outside my door, sweeping dead leaves 
and laughing—skitters away, elusive as an autumn hare,
or the wind’s almost-intelligible clamor. 

Can the hunter see the seasons shifting 
in unfamiliar ways? 
Will he quit the game?
The news today proclaimed 
three billion birds vanished from the skies—
sparrows, blackbirds, warblers, and more—
since I was a young man, a span
laughably short, set against the migrations 
of Betelgeuse and Rigel.

Despite stark witness, we remain 
steadfast in past imaginings’
starry-eyed abandon, deaf and dumb 
to all discourse that might call 
those passerine spirits back.

The streetlamp casts long shadows
of writhing branches on the wall,
transmuted by despair into supplicants,
beseeching forbearance from 
the fire sure to come.

Michael Waterson

About Michael Waterson

Michael Waterson is a retired journalist from Pittsburgh PA. His varied career includes stints as a forest firefighter, San Francisco taxi driver and wine educator. He earned an MFA from Mills College. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in numerous online and print journals, including California Quarterly, Cathexis Northwest, Bookends Review and Santa Clara Review.

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.