Theologian of the Hills

Clouds combine and recombine above the mountains;
in the canyons shadows congregate, slide across
the range, the valley, crawl up the slopes of the foothills
and ridges.

Three days past we roamed the hills to the south,
among the pinon and juniper and the yellow,
billowy grasses.  And the day before, Thursday,

I loaned a jacket to a friend, zippered myself
into a second skin; we braved a cold rain
and walked the banks of the dry riverbed.

The gods give us weather as a prescription
for grief.  My father instructed, thirty years ago,
that the salts of the Atlantic could cure
anything.  He was wrong about so much,

but on this the man spoke truth.  What would
he make of me now, two thousand miles from all
the hearts and waters of home, my limbs powdery

with desert dust and my own sweated salts?  He’d
claim responsibility for my nature, lonesome to a fault:
he’d approve.  Theologian of the hills, he’d explain 

that the gods give us light, give us more than we can
bear, and we stride among the hills, bearing it.

DONNA STEINER is a writer and teacher living in central New York, on the southern shore of Lake Ontario.  Her essays and poems have been published in The Sun, Utne Reader, The Bellingham Review, and Isotope.