The Memorial

The road devours the trees and the mountain, like fruit,
excretes the miracle of convenience. At the end of the trail

a memorial looks over the valley, where mountains
crash into a shoreline of silvery pastures shot through

with pink evening light, where factories ride the fog
like freighters on a becalmed estuary. Above, the marble

memorial gleams so white the war seems to have ended
just a year or two ago though the tarnished plaques

gives the dates of two world wars. Nearby
some teenagers are drinking and having a picnic.

I didn’t hike up the mountain to judge the happiness
of children watching the sunset on a wool blanket

laden with bread and beer. I came to breathe,
a necessity simpler and truer than faith, to feast

at the common table of trees and mountains.
I came to memorialize a tiny patch of earth elsewhere

whose pastures, ashes, birches, and persimmon trees
have no marble to sanctify or save,

no monument but the common one of breath.

Katherine Smith’s poems have appeared in a number of journals, among them The Cincinnati Review, Ploughshares, Mezzo Cammin, Shenandoah, The Southern Review, Atlanta Review, and Appalachian Heritage. Her first book, Argument by Design, appeared in 2003. Her second book of poetry, Woman Alone on the Mountain, appeared with Iris Press in Fall 2014. She teaches at Montgomery College in Maryland where she is Poetry Editor for the Potomac Review.

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