Text for Rocky Summer

The recording of Rocky Summer is finally here!

While I am in the process of putting a video together, this text is a reference for anyone listening to the premiere on soundcloud (the performance used displayed text rather than a narrator), or who wants to know what the piece is structured around. I am so grateful to the Dallas Chamber Symphony for their passionate, faithful performance of one my most personal, vulnerable works.

Thank you for listening!

ROCKY SUMMER

Rustle—crack, crack—
Panting as the air burns my
stupid, broken, lungs.
Shouts ahead—crack—rustle,

Why did I come?
Why did I come?

Sun beating down—
somehow—through the
thick canopy
above.

They’re so far ahead
they send one back
to check on my
cold, sweaty, red,
marshmallow face.

Why did I come?
Why did I come?

I tell him to “just leaf,”
but he “sticks” around.

My feet, just barely trudging
across the muddy, rocky ground.

I’m tired.

Not of walking, yet—
even up this

Rocky,
Overbearing,
Unforgiving,
Godforsaken,
Hill—

Just tired
of looking
at mud,
my feet,
or butts.

We’re at the first stop.

Everyone is there, bored.
Waiting.
Waiting up on me.

He says I should
maybe
possibly
perhaps
think about turning around.

“I’ll go my own pace,” I pant.
He protests.

My lips snarl in a way
I don’t recognize.
His mistake—
My mother is Polish.

“I. will. go. my. own. pace.”

They leave
with all
but one.

A quiet girl with a fierce name
is my new companion—
chained to my useless body.

I’m sorry.

Rustle—crack, crack—
Panting as my knees
echo the sticks
and my wobbling stomach
churns and tightens and wiggles.

How can such a beautiful day
make us all so ugly?

I’m sorry.
She waits.

The water is already
almost gone.

We wonder if we’ll make it
to the reward:
A lake atop the mountain.

Why did I come?
Why did I come?

Ahead, finally,
Something I can do.

Rocks.
I love rocks.
I love their dirty, chiseled faces
looking on indifferently,
as they turn a walk
into a climb.

I love how my hot hands
cool with each touch.

One of them bites me
when I slip backwards—
my companion points out
this is my first hickey of the summer.

We keep climbing,
and I realize,
I am climbing a mountain.

My body—
with stretchmarks, zits, hairy legs,
jiggling skin, dandruff, and weak cheekbones—
that’s the body that’s doing this.

My body.

We don’t stop.

The rocks are gone now,
having led us to an open field of every brown—
amber, maple, dirt—
tucked into a breathless sky.
My breathless face red hot and
smiling.

The wind begins to whisper
in gentle gusts
to the tall, burnt grass,
the impish blades tickling
our skin as we wade through.

At some point the trees return.
Small winks of yellow and purple and red
flirt from their beds of green.

We’re thinking we should turn back—
already so far behind the others—
but by the time we’ve decided to do so
we see it.

We’re there.

We made it.

While stepping on a log
I fall into the lake—
an unintended baptism.

In that moment of frigid humility,
I realize how close I was to giving up.

But here I was,
grinning madly underwater,
thousands of feet in the air.

Perfect clarity found
at the bottom of a muddy lake.

Reborn, we leave.

We are late.

We race back as fast as we can.
This time, downhill—falling
more than running.

She asks to stop,
Her knees.
She’s sorry.
I’m electric.

Across the valley of brown,
I laugh and twirl and squeal,
my mind racing even faster
as it wonders
what else I have given up on
too early.

The rocks appear,
and I gleefully
bolt down the ravine—
slicing through the
thin, mountain air—
dancing.

We stop.

She’s panting.
I’m laughing.

Small drops of sky begin to fall.

Too long later,
We arrive at the landing
where they told me
to turn back.

We stop in awe—thunder, lightning—
and I realize what I would have missed
had I gone faster,
or not at all.

Above the tree line, we
have the best seats
to see the dance—
a mountain aire.

The booming thunder shakes
the darkened sky,
throwing streaks of gold into relief.

Lightning tosses itself from
cloud to cloud,
cackling with a glee
only matched
by my own.

We are so very, very late.
We’re sorry.
But not at the moment.

Only when a streak of lightning
laughs too loud
do we remember—the best seats
are not very safe.

CRACK-CRACK BOOM.

Both laughing and screaming now,
We fly the rest of the way,
Only stopping
when one of them finds us,
having come back to rescue
two souls that had already
saved themselves.

We are so very, very late.
But we climbed the same mountain.

“You scared the hell out of me,” he says.
His mistake—
we don’t really care just now,
too busy dancing around
on legs that will reprimand us tomorrow.

We are the girls who climbed the mountain!
We are the girls who climbed the mountain!

Only now, years later, do I see that I was wrong—
I am not the girl who climbed the mountain.

I am the woman who came back down.

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