Silence Heard on San Bernadino Peak – a poem by James Green

The Lord said, "Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by." Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper.
1 Kings 19:11-12 (NIV) 

Silence Heard on San Bernardino Peak

You will meet winds named the Santa Anas 
on the trail to San Bernardino Peak.

Some say before the Spaniards came 
the Serranos called them Satanas – Devil Winds. 

They gather in the high desert, then vector 
through passes bending limber pines and 

leaving time-hewn boulders polished smooth, 
a path of round-rock moraine strewn 

from San Gorgonio’s crest down 
to the trailhead, witness to power and glory 

riding thunder and lighting, chasing clouds 
back to the coast.

I went there, to the summit, as I was told 
you can hear these winds and rocks speak 

and I made my camp leeward of an outcropping 
then waited and listened, 

hoping for the voice of an archangel, 
maybe Gabriel or Michael or one of the others, 

but no one spoke, only the noise of wind,
but I am used to that, and besides, 

if I were a chosen one, I am not certain 
I could handle it – the weight of it all – 

so I settled in for the night and watched 
first stars appear above the San Andreas, 

a crease that runs through these mountains, 
and I thought about the myth of solid ground 

while the wind grew louder and lights 
from the valley began to flicker like embers. 

I tried not to think about the earth 
swallowing the mountainside, and I slept. 

Sometime during the night the winds, 
by whatever name, calmed and when I woke 

all I heard was a whisper in the pines, 
then silence so utter I was listening 

to my own breath and all thought went the way 
of a star racing across the heavens, falling 

into hushed space.

James Green has published four chapbooks of poetry.  His individual poems have appeared in literary magazines in Ireland, the UK, and the USA.   Formerly a university professor and administrator, he is now retired and resides in Muncie, Indiana. You may contact him through his website at

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