Beneath yellow buckeyes and silver bells,
we dip our feet in the cool rushing rapids
as the Little Pigeon River’s clear flow
bathes the large rocks that seem to tumble
like fallen giants from the Chimney Tops.
Around us are the cucumber magnolias,
adopted into the diverse overstory
of the cove hardwood forest in a ravine,
their lucent leaves reflecting sunlight,
their milky flowers scenting the breeze
as salamanders sally from the stream,
weaving in and out of the moist forest,
their cheerful bodies mingling with colors
of the bee balm, jewelweed, bloodroot,
toothworts, trillium, and bleeding hearts.
And the earth here holds older memories
of when American chestnuts towered
over the misty groves where still ancient
hemlocks join more recent broadleaf trees,
and where echoes of Cherokee voices
whisper the sacred wonders of pigeons.
The flow of water over the jumbled
choreography of the morphed sandstone
invites us to rediscover the way
that we also have been formed over time—
a family of four whose love is shaped
by forces of grit and grace at work in life.
So pulled away today from life’s cares,
we breathe the freshness, hold no tension,
the clean mountain air rippling across
our faces in this green paradise,
where society’s sounds are waterlogged
by the force of the river’s life-giving love,
flushing out all other places and faces
as we are One,
while freedom flows over stone crevices
underneath the laced shelter of trees,
and the dance of light on water is enough.
“Smoky Mountain Memory” is from Danita Dodson’s newest collection of poems, The Medicine Woods, p. 19-20
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**Featured image: Will Pagoda, Unsplash