In The Mountains

A poem by Madison Julius Cawein

I.

Land-Marks

The way is rock and rubbish to a road
That leads through woods of stunted oaks and thorns
Into a valley that no flower adorns,
One mass of blackened brier; overflowed
With desolation: whence their mighty load
Of lichened limbs, like two colossal horns,
Two dead trees lift: trees, that the foul earth scorns
To vine with poison, spotted like the toad.
Here, on gaunt boughs, unclean, red-beaked, and bald,
The buzzards settle; roost, since that fierce night
When, torched with pine-knots, grim and shadowy,
Judge Lynch held court here; and the dark, appalled,
Heard words of hollow justice; and the light
Saw, on these trees, dread fruit swing suddenly.

II.

The Ox-Team

An ox-team, its lean oxen, slow of tread,
Weighed with an old-time yoke, creaked heavily
Along the mountain road. Beside it, three
Walked with no word: A woman with bowed head,
A young girl, old before her youth had fled,
Hugging a sleeping baby; near her knee
A gaunt hound trotted. Any one could see
The wagon held their all, from box to bed.
Slowly they creaked into the mountain town
And asked their way. Their men had all been killed,
Father and brother, at some mountain ball,
This girl the cause: a man had shot them down,
The father of the infant. As God willed,
They sought another State, and that was all.

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