We dragged the slopes to our feet.
On the summit, we burnt our clothes
for wood and there shuffled our feet
in the hush of the falling snow.
We had come out of the scuffed grass.
With one look back in unbelief
exhuming the long trek
the silent keen
puffing through blubbery fingers.
We pulled the hoofed trail through
the trapdoor of our unchained links
foisting for new heights.
Beyond the Appalachian Mountains
the hanging fern on pine dripped snow
on moles burrowing in gashed hollows.
We paused. In that doubtful moment
we rued the climb, succumbing to the assault
upon this stilled millennia’s eerie silence.
All that time the swivelling blizzards raged
shifting soil, eroding avalanches.
Below, burgeoning customs
unmaned the silent dignity of bisons.
All bore testimony to a familiar preparation.
And then, suddenly before our eyes
the solemn ground rose with the breeze
the spangled map changing to the quick:
Chicago Pittsburgh Kansas City
wild barnyards dry-coughing, pop-corning garages
horrent timber ribbed the coasting steamboats
the linoleum walls
the mild Indian piqued he was
by the mahogany cubism of our speech.
We wondered if coming so far
only mattered, we would be content
to build a fire, here and now
and unpack our horses.
We saw little need to go on.
One night the summit might open
up and swallow us all or old age
would come upon us like a lonely neighbour
on a pretext to the door.
© T.Wignesan 1964
[from the collection: tell them i’m gone, 1983; published in Fire Readings (A Collection of Contemporary Writing from the Shakespeare & Company Fire Benefit Readings). Paris-Boston: Frank Books, 1991, pp. 36-37.]