Advice for the Mountains


Craggy stacks rise from the floor around your worn armchair.
They squat atop your desk.
They march across your piano and kitchen table.
They tower in twin peaks beside your bed. 
In the living room a ridge of books runs in that sweet space
between the top of the bookcase and the ceiling with the peeling 
     paint. 
Elevations are always shifting, but generally the peaks are 
     inching higher. 
Some have grown so tall, a few titles are shrouded in clouds. 
A faint trail stretches from one distant end of the range to the 
     other. 
Take it in short segments. 
Attempting a through-hike in one season is not recommended. 
Your poor eyes wouldn’t make it to the finish. 
Best to start somewhere in the middle. 
Pack enough food and drink for the journey, 
and a dictionary to brush up on your vocabulary. 
You can always burn it, page by page, to warm your hands in a 
     storm. 
Expect plenty of tough climbs. 
(Mountains are rarely flat, after all.) 
Don’t skip the hard parts, lest you miss a sentence that could 
     alter your view. 
Beware of tremors that could trigger an avalanche, 
especially right above you, 
though being buried in books would be a happy way to go. 
Let your progress be a grand slog. 
Stretch often, and be kind to your eyes.
They carry you up and down the slopes, keeping your hike alive.
Trust them when they say they need to rest. 
Don’t count how many pages you turn per day. 
This isn’t a race. Don’t be in a hurry.
Bring along a friend if you want, but give them plenty of space.
Remember extra coffee. Forget your map and compass.
Getting lost out here is fine.


Play Notes: Doggone, but this blog template doesn't like long lines—forgive the strange breaks. Anyway, this playful poem grew out of my obvious affection for books and my inability to read as fast as I would like. The idea came to write an extended an analogy between living among stacks of books waiting to be read and hiking among mountains. I did some Internet browsing related to "mountain hiking advice." That brief bit of research helped me compose the poem. If you were going to compare your reading habits to another activity, what would it be? Could that comparison inspire a poem?


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