back toJacket2

This piece is about 15 printed pages long.
It is copyright © Bob Arnold and Jacket magazine 2010. See our [»»] Copyright notice.
The Internet address of this page is

Bob Arnold

Hiking Down From A Hillside Sky

A note from Bob Arnold to Kent Johnson:

Hi Kent,

Here is Hiking Down from a Hillside Sky. With introduction in place to assist the reader in.

Note that Greg Joly printed for his design model all poems on the left page of the book at that slant. It wouldn’t look right out of the book design, so I revert back to my original here.

Also note, if you didn’t find it on your own, there is a poem tucked inside on the front cover of the book, hidden under the dustjacket. It’s lovely working this way on the book because most miss the poem entirely, or find it after reading all the book and when inspecting how the book was handmade. There’s the poem! So it is meant to be read as an actual coda… so I have placed the poem at the end of the poems cycle… No Roman numeral to go with it. A lone wolf.

For your own background on Joly, and a bit of my own history ~ Michael Tarachow once of Markesan, Wisconsin published four of my books letterpress and exquisite editions at Pentagram Press. Maybe you saw them back then? in the 80s. Michael would be up to all sorts of tricks as a printer, and now and then he would hide one of my poems either under a jacket or blind stamp a poem onto a fly leaf and just wait for some eagle-eye reader to locate it. Hayden Carruth was delighted one time that he found a poem like this in one of my books and had to write me immediately. Anyway, I told Greg about the Tarachow bag of tricks and I was happy to see him follow tradition with this book. Also, it was Tarachow who first brought to my attention, when typesetting one of my books in 1980, that a poem he was working on (“Dogs In Snow”) could go either forward or backwards. I nodded, “I know” (by letter) and proceeded to tell him about my backtrack life in the woods at work. It all made sense. It’s still making sense. When I was reading on the streets for making money to send down to New Orleans post-Katrina, Greg often read with me. I showed him the Tarachow trick with “Dogs In Snow” and Greg was hooked. The next week he showed up for our reading with a wad of papers in his satchel and it was the backwards typed manuscript of my original poems. Greg took it further.

                                all’s well, Bob


In woodslore life knowing the way in is only as important as knowing the way out. Backtrack. Understanding both ways of the trail. It is the same with some poetry — lines and development that are versatile enough to be read forward or backwards. Practical and experimental. Asking the poem/the trail to widen-out, to explore. Over four decades of Bob Arnold’s poetry-trail in has been selected here to now backtrack out. Come along on this new way, or meet him halfway, or start from an opposite direction noticing the bent branch, a marker, stones left on the whichway trail.

for Susan

Down her arms
On her long hair
Along the row
In the garden

Guard the mysteries, constantly reveal them.

— Lew Welch


Cause no harm
Stoop beneath it
In the valley — well enough
As the river fog this morning
A spider’s web, floating there
Spans the thinnest first strand
Of the stone wall gate
Already between the width
I’ve only been away one day


In the smell of each other, the little movings
We found what we didn’t bring with us
Hiked and became tired and loved
We’ve crossed the small water into our surroundings

Sunlight is never far away
Be with your closest
Hold a hand with your two hands
Walk a meadow

That fills so easily
The pail you put out in the rain
There is a wondrous that begins here
These of the morning



He had to return with a second load
Even empty driving down he spoke about it
Something about that switch-back
The hairy mountain ride up still had him worried
Old cheap cowboy style boots
Warm smile, steady eyes
Serious look but not too serious
Dumptruck driver
I liked his long curly white pearly hair



Off on a high branch
Point quickly to a chickadee for
You to see, smile, nod an approval
Tree outside the kitchen window
And because you were sick we held the
Misshapen hemlock few would look twice at
Brought home a tree for the holidays
We hiked into the woodlot first snow


(and taste it melt)

To watch this world, lend a tongue
I straighten my sweaty back
For no reason other than snow
While the flakes open bigger
Echo over the pasture
The splitting wedge & hammer
No bird call, nothing flying
Valley fog quiets everything
Thin snow falling


(sugaring time)

Four men waiting for a boil
Undercover, trial run
Evaporator steam sheds snow —
Hardwood pile taking on a deep red
Leaks soldered
500 maple sap buckets washed out
& turned over
Perfect warm day like this
No heat in poplar but smoke sweet smell
Clear cold water in a hurry
Splash down the mountain —
Water three streams in one place
It’s midwinter believe it or not
Grain pan stuck, still pouring
Large gate won’t budge
By morning chicken wire iced
On snow it makes slush
Rain all night
Hear it down the stove pipe
Winter then spring


From last spring
The birds I’d already forgotten
Small quick sounds
In the woods with me I hear
Stopping my work for a moment
There is no doubt now
Snow packed
Saw on my shoulder
Hiking down from a hillside sky


(come snow)

Well used
I am done
Bucked, split then stacked
Elm from the edge of the woods
I finished carrying
No matter
The trees toss
Taking light
I watched a storm draw in
Just before supper


For keeping with the other
I’ve lost sight of one
Belly on the tree line
The other — eastward
One straight south
Calling wide apart
Two crows flying
Far / nearing / wait
I stop at the sound
Of rain in the air


(rub to the rough)

A burnished smooth
varnish, forgottenness
smell of creosote, sharp
planked all four sides
door starts into a tool room
the hermit’s hut
as soon as I step in


Strength in my hands
After shaking their coats goodnight
Plowing back to the house

What I see in their eyes
Looking up into the stars
Shivering I wait

Chains rap on the bucket
They drink around the ice
Dogs in snow


Raking a far corner of a hayfield
The old woman and her huge straw hat
There is a pleasure in such places
A small bridge neatly done to get by
A river runs with snowmelting
Puffs of softwood in the grey hills
Fields plowed, new wood split, the hawk floating
Passing thru the mountains is a strong feeling
Already you relax in a cotton skirt


(at day’s end)

new lumber
heavy work / jacking
keeping house aloft
rebuilding its main beam
we work all month in a crummy old cellar

watching her come closer
I am nearly healed
a very easy stride and gentleness
green leaf top blouse
she is golden

massage my troubled shoulders
she comes up through the woods trail to
resting flat on a pile of fresh planks I see
out in the sun

and I am
all day into old beams
pounding spikes upwards
he told her I was very sore


(and won’t let go)

Who is taller, as we kiss
And a game of tip-toeing
The feel of your waist
Sunburn on your shoulders
In my hands, brush of
Loose summer dress
All morning like this —
I could hold you


On hot chain saw engine
Doesn’t amount to much
Snow falls in big flakes
Ice never tasted better
Sit in place melted

At lunch break unwrap
Neat slices of strawberry & pear
Clear cold glass in my oiled hand
Finding a fruit cup she made for me

Wood chips nettled on my woolen socks
Sitting on a sap soaked maple stump
Black tin lunch pail
The last of my noon hour


( to have )

Has to be the night ahead
And you think of me not as crazy

To have the stars rise from the river
Is all the day I wish

Move as a dress on your body

To see the flower garden
Is all the morning I ask

Finally sing and I am known
To every bird in the woods


I would find you this way
Hours later

Lie down
Undress, while looking to the woods
So warm
In the early evening
Upstairs to our room
It is now the birds settle


(is it)

over the
stars or

the stars


The snow we’ve been waiting for
The horse that stands still
In the pasture
From a trough
A sleeve of ice
A farmhand bending to lift
Of afternoon and sun
Here is the slowness



It’s stone
It isn’t confusing

I keep building out of love and place
At home there are many stone walls

Being built for long gone loved ones
At the top of the hill there is a cairn

I’ve a stone to bring back
I’ve a stone to carry to the top of the hill



My hands beneath your blouse
And because we kiss, I warm
Shedding hats and gloves
The pile, brushing off woodchips
Stop to rest together against
Forth in the mind — until we
Up these sticks — back and
Simple thoughts, like picking
Worked without words
Trampled branches on snow
Selecting, we made a cord
In two hours of thinning
That we sawed today
These are the woods
Pine, basswood, oak,
Cherry, red maple,
Apple, poplar, ash


I begin to sing

Sing & sing
As they sing
Look up — listen

My eyes
Sun watering
Tops of hemlock
Fluttering snow

These birds
I can’t find
So small


The yellow blossoms
She will smell like
And in a month
A ledge of stone
To plant around
From the brook
Of daylilies
Loose black soil
She wheelbarrows
Beneath rain clouds


Above me
High high

The long groaning waves
Listening awhile to the ships at sea

Oil freeze to bar and gloves
My saw shut-down

10 degrees with a wind
I stand in one today knee-deep in snow

There were the deep inland forests
Long before the great ships at sea


Rain on the windows
Boots drying
Nothing else in our lives
Read before the fire
One lamp
We sit in the kitchen
A windy night ahead
No longer summer

                    (as we drive)

Down the mountain to our valley
From the same satchel
I eat more after more work
Sit awhile in the sun and then
The hard work I eat dinner around
Everything is ravenous

You are with me
Far from home
On the mountain
Of the hermit’s hut
When I work in the woods

book cover


Was originally hand-set by Greg Joly at
Bull Thistle Press onto various hand-made
Himalayan papers with enfold Pastelle
Text-pages incised by 18 pt. Deepdene
& ATF Garmond Italic making
300 volumes.

It’s distributed from
Longhouse ~ Guilford, Vermont

Copyright Notice: Please respect the fact that all material in Jacket magazine is copyright © Jacket magazine and the individual authors and copyright owners 1997–2010; it is made available here without charge for personal use only, and it may not be stored, displayed, published, reproduced, or used for any other purpose.