I’ve got a mind to clear the trail of tumbled
stones, blown bracken, branches of broken
pine, exhausted by the weight of snow.
Setting these aside, there is still much
to overcome—a steep incline, the wayward
games of surface roots, the early loss
of light on the eastern slope. I never make
the ridge, but make it easier for someone
else who might. Later, I drag myself
to the empty camp, and, foraging, discover
a furnace cord of seasoned fir, stacked
tightly toward a peak, a smaller form
of the ziggurat, which hard and civilized men
built long ago, a rough-hewn bridge to heaven.
How often have I profited from such
a gift—like Ruth, gleaning the field’s remainders,
along with handfuls purposely let fall—
thankful, the more for being aware of the work
involved, another’s split and haul. There’s even
a tarp thrown over and staked down, to preclude
the hissing reproof of flames on rain-soaked wood.
I bend to lift a bundle, and by night
lean over a stone-ringed fire, warm
and well-lit, picturing a fellow traveler
far above the tree line, taking in
the splendor of the summit view, miles
and miles of forest the sun has set on fire.
Maybe I’ll leave tomorrow. Maybe I’ll go on
making a ghost of solitude. But right now
I crawl under the tent’s flimsy gable
and lie, my joints aching to surrender,
the segments of my limbs heavy as cut wood.
The Image archive is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.