Friday, 4 September 2015

from Blackwater Quartet, selection 38

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.

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