On Uncanoonuc Mountain

by D. Walsh Gilbert

On Uncanoonuc Mountain
the loon, “the laugh of the deeply insane”
— John McPhee

We sat on the ledge near Tipping Rock
on Uncanoonuc Mountain whose native name
means woman’s breast.  We listened for echoes,
sifted through last autumn’s leaves and moss
for rocks smaller than our palms, and lobbed
them counting out until we heard them hit
the ground below us.  Fathom measure.
A distance calculation using time.  A test of depth.

We heard the loon, its eerie laugh
of the deeply insane.  It was somewhere
on the distant lake.  We surmised it couldn’t find
its mate.  In our minds, it circled trailing a wake
the way loneliness follows loss.

He said he’d spoken to our cancer-stricken mother
dead for over thirty years.  And she had sung to him.
Tura Lura.  Like the loon.  And she looked good —
her cheeks were pink again.  And I looked down
at a hangnail and shook my head.
I said, No — you didn’t,
closing my eyes without my eyes closing.