Degrees of Difficulty
There is something in the thaw,
found where he fell, carved by cold,
the face a map from somewhere
to somewhere, or else the skin
blackening as it warms.
In these mountains, centuries pass
like mist in a spring so brief
the birches lay half in one life, half
in a season best forgotten, trunks stooped
and leaves a weak show in thinning air.
If there was a road here
it was in the mind, a hard route in any year
for a foothold hacked with axes.
There was trade beyond these ranges,
home perhaps, or strangers to a stranger.
A quiver’s mush of arrow spurs, leggings
and leather jerkin stuffed with straw—
he climbed into the age of ice
to settle like a debris in our lives.
Our breath lifts out before us on the chill.
These ridges announce the boundaries
of the world, knuckles of vertebrae
beneath a haze of alpine flower,
a. everything connected each to each
for a life reclaimed from zero.
We are met in these remains,
climbing with little and too late
into a place without name, deep as years,
under a sun the ice tames, a sustenance
in the frozen passes when we return.