The sound is a woman standing in the pleats
of the mountain’s summer skirts, her throat
haunted by sister-elders calling back
a hundred seasons, a hundred more.
Each morning, the cows vanish into rocky folds.
Days of brooms and needlework and cheese.
There are no men, and the women can be
tender and loud. The spine of cliffs shivers,
amplifies the lilting spell. The women call
to each other, call to their hearkening herds.
The women are loud. The children must
cover their ears as they stand at the source.
There are wolves, but the wolves know
the meaning of songs that carry for miles.
There are bears, but they only lift their
heads and sway. The lynx swivel
their tufted ears and spindle back the way
they came. The women are loud, and
the wayfaring cattle trundle their gentle
bodies home, bells a tin echo twined
in each lyricless phrase. The forest darkens,
and the kine accumulate like summoned
ghosts. The women’s voices ornament
the alpine air. The women are loud.
Their voices toll and toll. The mountains
swell and cower with the sound.