Monday, September 7, 2009

Vesper Peak

Vesper Peak (revised September 7, 2009)

The trail to the mountains
Begins in the heart
Where wild paths tangle
And marriages

Birds we cannot see
In the shadows
Pikas run across
The rocks
Beneath a cedar
That has withstood a thousand storms

The trail gets worse each year
The crumbling bridge
Now missing planks,
Rotten around the edges

A slimy glaze of leaves
And darkness
Coats the first half mile
Weaves through
Trees and vegetation
That never see the sun

Each year
The footlog
Over the Stillaguamish
More treacherous
Than the year before

The route
Through the valley
Is cairned anew
Each year
You cannot see Headlee Pass
Until you work
Your way up the valley

Thus I was fooled by a liar’s path
Marked with a cairn
Off route
Leading to black slabs
And a lunatic path
That died in brush and ancient snow

But the mountains gave
Me back again
To meet others
On the trail

Let’s meet at the lake,
Someone says

Someone shouts below
The switchbacks
If I don’t get there
Go on without me

We climb together
And we break apart
But everyone gets there

Some of the climbers are fast
Climbing the golden slabs
Reading the alphabet of footholds
With their feet
Others are slower
But not defeated by bad knees
Or age

Though we take different
Paths we arrive
At the same place
To gather on the summit

Copper Lake
Lies like a legend below
A scrawl in the summer register
Says you were there
A year ago

We try to keep the summer
And hold it still
But it is September after all
And pikas are scurrying
Across the broken slopes
Of Sperry Peak

Does anyone see
Those fragile harebells
Clinging to the cliff

Does anyone see
The last stand of gentians
Against the fading light

But we must hurry now
To beat the dark
And cannot linger to
Taste the cold, sweet berries
Along the trail

We must follow the path
Past the dark mirror
Of the pond
That earlier clasped the sun
And cross the river
Once more
Armed against the night
With feeble flashlights
And corny jokes,
Tired but laughing
All the way back

Karen Sykes (Waring)