Next to the peaks: a meekness
of voices, shouts of our children
carried like bits of cellophane on a breeze.
We top the rock-hard ridge
above timberline, inhale the silence.
Nothing moves, until
below us, like mites, a line of nine:
through binoculars, pack horses stitch
westward along the glacial chasm.
You think of people you know
who never stop wanting to disappear
into mountains, find you are glad
for the registration that tells rangers
you are on the trail, that slender switchback.
Can loneliness be eased
by the blunt language of rock
zigzagged into sky?
We listen into the empty air
of 12,000 feet, wonder if we are
to hear such fullness.
And before we are ready,
our wavery, puppet legs must bear us down
to be secure by darkness, our hard labor
so small and swerving a thing
that we simply receive whatever delivers us:
erupted rock, the Pacific sky
stretched beneath the place we stand, lifting
us to wonder ... how to proceed
from here, how to walk again
the low valley and the plain road.