A Poem for Cheryl Strayed

As host of the recent “Writing, Truth, and Community” event featuring best selling author and creative writer Cheryl Strayed, I was blessed with the task of introducing Cheryl, who has by now, been introduced in so many fabulous and interesting ways by so many fabulous and interesting luminaries, that I was wondering what little old me could possibly add to the mix? So in my poet-like bewilderment and terror, I couldn’t think of what else to do except what I always do with such surges of emotion. Write a poem! She was so genuinely touched, that she mentioned how when she met Robert Redford, though he kissed her four times, he did NOT write her a poem. My life is now complete, I can die a happy fulfilled man!! The poem is copied below. Enjoy!

Thirteen Ways of Looking at Cheryl Strayed (after Wallace Stevens)

I

Among twenty snowy mountains
The only thing moving
Was the eye of a woman with a blue backpack
Called “monster”

II

She was of three minds
Like a tree with three branches
Of grief, of hope, of love

III

The woman whirled in the summer winds
A tiny speck of brilliance in the setting sun

IV

A woman and a mountain are one. A woman
And a mountain, and a grieving heart are one

V

I don’t know which to prefer, the beauty
of subtle thought, or the beauty of mountain dreams—
the woman weeping, or just after

VI

Charcoal clouds drifted across the tops of the sugar pines,
oh dear future sugar. . .the mountains frowned
her solitude thickening, the trail steepened

VII

Oh good people of the city
why do you imagine only golden words?
Do you not see how the blackbirds
nest in her trees, as in yours?

VIII

I know of noble songs, of grand ideas,
I know the woman with the blue backpack
is involved in what I know

IX

When the woman took flight
as now a bluebird might, it marked the beginning
of many endings

X

The sight of the woman
in the blue backpack with her heart full of
birds, full of words,
would make the mountains cry out
in understanding

XI

She walked the spine of California
on winged feet made of glass
on hammered feet of blood and pulp
the mystery and beauty eclipsing the fear
of an unknown. . .the pain of surrender

XII

The river is flowing
the woman must jump in

XIII

It was daytime all night long
from then on, the blackbirds in the night tree were
singing for her, a song abloom with the clarity of love