David Guterson's "Turn Around Time"

Northwesterner, best-selling novelist, and poet David Guterson has written a book-length poem for the backcountry that has shaped his life and in which he sees the seasons of his life: Turn Around Time.
Mountaineers Books Mountaineers Books
September 04, 2019

The following is excerpted from David Guterson's new book Turn Around Time: A Walking Poem for the Pacific Northwest.

The Weight of Windfall

Spare me, I reply, from niggling correctness,
and get on with our inimitable, indifferent switchbacks
reminding us of fresh limitations.
With bushwhacking, sidestepping,
flanking and chiding.

With each fresh step
in the scheme of our wending.
Fallen trees in whimsical geometries
will lend to our woods
their comic trajectories with humor

more epic than the brisk fits of squirrels,
who are, by comparison, vaudevillians.
One must admire their instant reversals,
disingenuous flimflamming starts,
and most marvelous of all how some seem to fly

 

at four o’clock in the morning.
These autumn midden builders, truffle nibblers,
and trail greeters punchily arrest
our forward progress with their brief but demanding
performances on logs

or by scrabbling and spiraling over bark.
Star turns in bit parts, you breezily assess,
while making a pitch for windfall en masse
as superior to my scampering farce.
We must weigh, then, the weight of things together,

and whether words are equal to our task,
and whether to loll in heaps by the river
finishing the rich, dense figs from Smyrna,
cloying as they are in my estimation,
dessert figs someone fobbed off on you

at Christmas, a pass-along pack, regifted.
This is other people, you say,
then rail against all the liars in your life,
those who disappointed you once
versus those who disappointed you twice:

the frank, snide, sour pretenders
with whom you’d never take a hike.

Illustrations by Justin Gibbens.