Above the Mist

Great days may dawn ill.

A while to strike a fire in the drizzle,
Kindling wet, matches failing to flare,
The bull elk guffawing from the close pines
Through the fog.

From camp, climbing in dense mist
Over damp bracken, a clutch of grosbeaks
Chattering in the birches, wondering if the day will be lost

In this shroud. Struggling upward, the rasp of the lungs
Heralding the approach of the seventh decade,
Racing the cloud up the ridge, till the heart
Worries the ribs.
I concede
Sprawling to watch the curtain rise.

And there
Prosceniumed by the stratum is the mountain bowl
And beyond, the volcanoed plain,
Strafed by Blakesian shafts.
From below the crag a grey arrow rifles north.
I look down on the slate back of a falcon

Hunting birds. She loops the cirque thrice
Then stoops talons fisted to sever the grosbeak
In a pink shock of down. Spurred by the show
I clamber up through strewn drapes
The valley now clear, now gone.
The stag braying, now and then.

Above the last mutilated pine
At the raw saddle
Ravens kite the gale,
Bickering like fish wives.
I johnmuir the ridge, shepherding a flock of big horns.
The ewes and lambs dash the arête
Strafed by a pair of harpies
Striving to pitch a sheep or two
Into the abyss but the beasts survive.
The eagles bank away and know the distant ridge
In the time it takes me to trudge

A few steps. The light rakes the range
I quit the tops
With regret and stumble down a tilted wood
Lured by the bugle. Stalking amongst the trunks
I spot the cows browsing
Then the tines of the bull, six and seven. His head tosses
In disquiet, aware of an alien aroma, he herds

His harem away. Thrilled I rest on an outcrop
Glimpsing the gang in the brush
Then the crash of a broken branch
The cows stampede under the rock
The bull goading them
Charges so close beneath me

That if I were a caballero or young or Artemis
I could drop to his back
Cling to his antlers
And steer him joyfully through the forest.

But I am none of those.

I squat by the fire
The tea ambrosial
The light lambent,
The mood lacking language to match.


The Latir Wilderness, New Mexico, September 2008