Fog on the 180 (Kings Canyon)


James K. Zimmerman

James K. Zimmerman is an award-winning poet and Pushcart Prize nominee. His work appears or is forthcoming in Miramar, PleiadesChautauquaAmerican Life in PoetryThe Evansville Review, and Nimrod, among others. He is the author of Little Miracles (Passenger, 2015) and Family Cookout (Comstock, 2016), and winner of the Jessie Bryce Niles Prize.

to begin with
there is nothing there
to begin with


a filmy emptiness
of mist, the absence
of presence

a thought un-
tainted by words

a word yet to carry
the cloak of meaning


then they begin to appear
one by one, sometimes
two by three, dark
sentinels on nightwatch


hooded figures pendant
in soft cool air
spectral arms open wide
to the highway


as if seen unfocused
through cataracted eyes

now, in the moment
of their birth, breathlessly
they speak their names:


douglas fir, balsam
pine, manzanita
mountain laurel


then now again too shy
to take a graceful bow
in the high-beam
glare of center stage
they recede back into
mesmerizing mist


to become shuttered
memories of a time
we will be unsure
ever did occur at all


but as we descend still
farther, lingering
clouds release us
from their bony fingers


and the unexpected
valley is a Joseph’s coat


seams of muddy ochre
stitched in bright green
rows of orange, grape
persimmon, pomelo


and silhouettes
of transient shades
backlit from above