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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.

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