Michael Perkins’s “Overlook Mountain Invocation”

For the finale of our book launch party for Michael Perkins’ Carpe Diem: New and Selected Poems, I read Michael’s poem, “Overlook Mountain Invocation,” which, I should admit, he dedicated to me, though I would dedicated it in turn to everyone who has trooped up the two-and-a-half mile trail to the summit fire tower for the most magnificent views in the Hudson Valley. If I may commit a sacrilege: Forget about Woodstock, the concert. Come to Woodstock to climb Overlook.

Afterward a listener said this should be Woodstock’s official town poem. Is there such a thing? I’ve long thought that should Woodstock declare its independence as a People’s Republic, it would print money with the Overlook Mountain profile in place of the pyramids and pseudo-classical palaces that decorate our cash today. Overlook dominates our valley, the imposing corner of the greater Catskills hidden behind that from some angles looks like a long flat saddle and from others like a lopsided pyramid. Alf Evers tells us in Woodstock: History of an American Town that the early sailors on the Hudson who saw it jutting out from the southern end of the Great Escarpment mountain profile that rules the skyline for twenty miles called it “the Short-off or South Peak.” I think of it as our Mount Rushmore minus the face lift to make it more human. We’re letting it return to wilderness to be our better teacher.

Overlook Mountain Invocation

By god, you’re a fine mountain,
Overlook, dancing with your sisters
In a ring around our valley,
South peak blue
Against the northern sky!

Overlook, you are
Our farewell to houses!
Overlook, you are
Our entrance to heaven!

Great Overlook!
Open our eyes closed with coins–
Open our ears stuffed with traffic–
Open our hearts so long indifferent
To your geologic transcendence,
Great Overlook!

Admit us all who live at your knees
Into the ancient chambers of your
Immortal, marmoreal being,
Where we may be transformed
Into mountains ourselves,
Great Overlook!

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