Hiking West Of the Tetons

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Next to the peaks: a meekness

of voices, shouts of our children

carried like bits of cellophane on a breeze.

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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

meant

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

suddenly

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.

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