They are two hundred or so,
lying where the veil of cold
softened the senses, shrouded
each finger, each toe, each limb,
each breath; clouded the eyes
with the shadow of the peak
that would be their eternity.
They curl like sated lovers
around some secret warmth,
the mountain’s last seduction;
the whisper that embraces them,
the wind through the layers
of skin, of down, of colors
that dot the lead gray, the deep white
below the blue, limitless blue.
They must have dreamed the summit,
like a needle in their mind’s eye.
For the sake of one fractured moment
with their feet above all else
they have become what they are.
They have found each other,
Lain down in the shelter of stone,
The boots the only green for miles.
They sleep. They mark the way.
Each is a knot on the rope,
an axe driven into snow
and ice and pitiless rock,
another step that must be taken.
The air is their voice, thin and dry:
“Press on, press on! You are in
the death zone. Time will not wait.”
- September 2011