Heart in the Highlands Rhododendron roots creep in and criss across the narrow trail, rain-wet and looking like black snakes. White mist rises like phantoms of the mountain range or the men who harvested her coal. Tadpoles gulp at the surface of small basins in boulder tops, house guests in the hollow formations that took unrelatable time to wear away. Wild raspberries reach out of crumbled mason walls where coke was made by burning coal and even the most hardened men admitted this was the hardest work. I walk the ridge and wonder if the shallow water will last long enough for tadpoles to turn to frogs, measuring the distance to safety in each moment between thunder and lightning. Baptism in the Canyon I know the water will be an easy emerald when I am turned to the sun again. Then my craft and gaze might drift to the bottom where algae ribbons wave like banners strung from drowned tree boughs. Until then I set the canoe on an upstream course at dark. I am only afraid of never reaching the shore if I cannot mark the miles. I arrive and lay with my backbone pointing true north to the river and south to the hot spring’s cradle so I and my eyes open upward. I follow the Black Canyon path to where the world cracked open; I stand naked and howling, fingers, feet, and gaze outstretched, shooting up and down toward the out-of-reach source. I have not learned to read the sky, but let myself feel each impression of history, fingers running over braille without connection to the words. I am satisfied instead to know the message was written and witness my seven sisters rise above the canyon. I find grandma there, where the rocks keep giving birth to boiling water. She was waiting on the other side in the desert valley with the moon and under all of my mothers’ stars. She is in the white lime wrinkles of every red wall. I see them there, without a sound— each woman illuminated by absence as much as figures in cast shadows, taking the shape of all they let go so I might inherit the echo—light, life, minerals and memory. A body cutting through current, I am baptized in a river of stars. Saved by the Beauty of the World Hail Mother Mary Oliver, patron saint of the wild geese and the wild, silky self. You map the way to love the father who haunts our dreams, early morning silence, even the mangroves. You hear all the world's cries of grief and exaltation, unravel our certainty, cloak us in warm and infinite questions. Like a servant of the good word or pure daughter of the water, for years you lived on the fish, clams, and mussels you could gather. You leave us to wonder whether you believe in adornments like lemon or butter? and what color roses blossom at the burial ground where you lay a loved dog to rest? how wild their scent?
Bonnie lives nestled in the hills of Southwestern PA with her dog. Her love for wilderness and quiet feel inseparable from her identity as a person and a writer. The rivers and landscapes home, her travels, and her time as a whitewater rafting guide shape her perspective. She holds an MA in English from West Virginia University. Previous publications can be found in River River, Still, Gyroscope Review, Third Wednesday, and Absence. She currently develops STEM education programs for an engineering nonprofit organization, though her passion is for creative expression through language and photography.