Rocky Mountain Solstice 2015
By David Rothman
Dedicated to Reg Saner
There is something difficult about the mountains,
All mountains, though ours more visibly than most.
Tragedies I know have run off Mt. Crested Butte
With less impact on its laccolith ribs than snowmelt.
History and riddles have not dislodged one pebble
From Mt. Elbert’s Box Creek Cirque. Even all our politics
Present a minor impact in Engineer Pass’s dynamite rubble,
Where time and granite define far more.
What will those scars look like in a million years?
Excepting maybe Kendall’s Climax,
Most less than a scratch. There is something
About the mountains that is difficult. Animated, named,
Annotated, even loved, they still resist our attentions.
That is why one day three weeks ago
I took my Jacob and his good friend Will
Up above Cottonwood Pass, hiking the Divide south,
Skis strapped to packs, to surf May corn
In a wet, late spring. The snowpack was fat and crisp,
The sky cobalt, time slow, the sun,
That mid-sized cauldron of bubbling hydrogen,
Arcing towards its summer apex
As we climbed to more than twelve-eight on our middle lap
And dropped an untracked, unnamed cirque of silk.
Difficult. Indifferent to our joyous yelling,
Awful and sublime. How to name it?
No upward spiral of divine hope, the mountain did nothing.
It was we who took care to make tracks swiftly
Before gambling any more than one swift moment
Beneath a dormant, enormous cornice.
A mottled ptarmigan, a topo map lost to a gust of wind,
A blister on my left shin, five hours with my son and his friend
On a springtime line I’ve eyed for years…
What of it? What do we learn from a measured pitch
In the sun, a frozen lake, a spider foraging bacteria on snow,
A long, round ridge line, a traverse? Well, what do we learn
From a promise, or a blessing, or a vow?
This might be the wrong question.
Far from the pianos and the piano galleries,
The pavement, brick, glass, steel and idea factories;
Far above the coffee-shop wine-bars
With their tattooed, intently pixel-fixated hipsters
And scribbling poets; far beyond and transcending every committee,
Production target and curriculum, buried in clouds,
Promising inhuman skies and stars that can be only real,
Grays Peak and Mt. Audubon and the Weminuche
Are not calling you and will not answer to your call,
No matter how beautiful or true or cunning.
There is no question: flowing through your mind,
They still will not ask you questions or answer yours.
But you can go to them, admiring them
Before you become part of them, or part of what they are,
And there you can ask questions of yourself
And of whatever forces formed such a place,
Such a difficult place, where all questions can be measured.