poems as hand- and foot-holds on a glass mountain

The Decline and Fall

“When the elements disintegrate,
where do you go?”
– No Barrier #47

Eating curly rice noodles with freeze-dried veggies
from a small aluminum cup
sitting on a rock since there’s dirt everywhere
while a little workman-like propane stove
also a light-weight for these long backpack carries
hisses and hums boiling more water for tea

have kept my boots on, heavy as an old F-150
in the fashion of the day, one of those infectious
collective whims we’d have to know as such
to think about how to avoid

On my own this trip except for portable civilization
on my back most of the day now spread out
and put to use, with only a thin paperback
volume of poems for company
if you were here well you are
reading this out of time’s stern sequence
seeing only what I’ve seen but with different filters
which is the point anyway; we’re never quite alone
even while waiting for our emptiness, the empty kind
to turn into that other emptiness, the full kind

You have to read pathway texts to be forgetting them
while finding what they can’t say
ghosts of bridges burned passages memorized
‘the known way is not a way’
I’ve followed a well-stomped dirt path all day
my feet have but not my mind
that howling want of something felt but never seen
aside from distractions that hide it
well them actually; and here they come
sunlight fading slowly into the trees
those sentinels of darkness
mere shadows while the sun is out
but lords of a dark universe when it isn’t
their dark reach offering one emptiness to another
a peace offering between old enemies
mountain man and native passing a pipe
between them at a campfire
pretending they’re alone together
far from the thundering herds of settlers
their cattle, wagons, oxen a mere forty-fifty years off

A builder of empires meets their wrecker
the one not yet seeing he’s brought along the other
in his backpack, a seemingly innocent un-doer
light as a photo of a grey wrench
lighter than the toothbrush whose handle
he’s sawed off to save a few ounces
a spare shadow that will fit itself to anything
now waiting among daylight’s harmless trees
where only what’s expected is welcome
to come into their night kingdom
where all those unexpecteds live in our lost welcome

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