for Irene Latham
Leaving from Cauterets, up to the South,
after the first traverse
we left the takers of the waters
like trader ants below.
Ascending the causeway
dangling cups like aluminum chains,
up the crystal skies
we passed the toffee folding machines
and up through the bushy slopes
leaving below the running waiters and steaming
chicory blenders retreating behind us and beneath.
Up the thunder-reverberating bowl of the pic de luz,
the whole world behind was shrinking,
like a cupboard tucked in a fringe of grass,
then bent beneath and fell away,
and we were in another world of long green slopes,
world weary yellow fields that fibrillated
in the smoke of the August tingling air.
Far away to north, the blunt hills were reduced by space
into rhythmic demi-bubbles of France.
The sun buzzed from the South,
great too, in its own right,
and North and South the feral sisters tramped away
one next to another like great
brown bears of the Pyrenees.
We walked the tightrope of a col, and there we were,
arrived at last–in the pockets of vastness
anchored to the earth only by air.
© 2015 Andrew Glaze, from his book Overheard In A Drugstore
At the end of WW2, U.S. military servicemen were being shipped back home in the same order they arrived in Europe. Since my father had been a late recruit, he knew he had a long wait ahead of him. He decided to make the most of it and head to the mountainous French town of Grenoble. There he found beauty and inspiration. His parents had always been frankophiles, he’d had private French lessons growing up, and the University offered him the chance to be a student and assistant teacher.
During the winter, he learned to ski along with friends and military buddies. In the summer he biked and hiked with youth hostel members. This poem is about one of those group adventures. Cauterets is a town in the Hautes-Pyrénées in the region of Occitanie in south-western France. It has been a Spa town since pre-Roman days, and has health giving mineral springs from 11 different sources. (Hence the phrase, “we left the takers of the waters like trader ants below”). A valley town surrounded by mountains, it has one particular 16.5 mile trail that goes from Cauterets to Luz St-Sauveur. It features a river and is rated difficult. As the poem mentions “pic de luz”, I do wonder if the poem is about that trail. In any case, my father documented his journey up the mountain with photos.
He dedicated the poem to fellow poet and writer Irene Latham, in gratitude, after she nominated him for Poet Laureate of Alabama.
Hike from Cauterets: Andrew Glaze, fourth from left, wearing a striped shirt.
Climbing the Sky again, this time in Villars, Switzerland, along with Army buddies.
(photos by Andrew Glaze, property of the Andrew Glaze Estate)
Cauterets in a post card from the late 1800’s. Photographer unknown.