Strong Mountain
by Bryan R. Monte

My name means strong or bold mountain
Mountains if you correct the final vowel switch
Made by an overzealous Ellis Island agent
Or my Italian great-grandfather trying to pass for French.

Perhaps the reason I’ve also felt lighter at altitude
And easily scaled the hundred steps to the upper campus
My first week in Utah, having felt so heavy and depressed
My first nineteen years in the Midwest or on the East Coast.

Maybe why I also felt so cold and distant
At the weekend campus parties or dances
Wanting to get back to my own apartment
In the quiet foothills, the stars dotting the sky.

Or why I’ve always sensed family trouble from a distance
The searing chest pains, the strange, persistent stomach ache
The day of my father’s heart attack, my mother’s stroke
Twenty years apart, thousands of miles away.

Or why I wanted to be a poet or an astronomer
Spending my nights alone on a mountain top
Staring through lenses onto giant mirrors
At galaxies pinwheeling through space.

From my maternal grandfather I inherited
A vestigial baby tooth and a love of film music.
He led a family band and played the violin by ear
But turned down a Hollywood job to paint scenery.

And from my paternal great-grandfather—my Wanderlust,
Sailing between Italy and America for years on his inheritance
Until he stranded in the hills of Tuscarawas County
With a failed winery, penniless, his children, coal miners.

And from my father, the volcano, I got my passion
His anger erupting every evening from his store’s meagre takings
As he zoomed up the driveway in his red Pontiac
And we rushed to clean up and put supper on the table

Hectoring me at dinner that if I studied English or astronomy
I wouldn’t find or keep work, terrified of the dreams,
Desires and mistakes, born of blood, bone and spirit
That connect us, one with another, the mountains and the stars.