Bristlecone in Blue
Ascending takes effort.
My hamstrings protest; dizzy spells,
a cold sharp ache coiling in my ears,
my mind like an open door— all the flies let in, the bodies below, still
waiting on warm asphalt.
There seems no good reason to climb mountains anymore.
We left our grieving city, the sound of trauma still audible
beneath our heavy sips of air
switchback after switchback, then higher still the silence first like a murder then solvent.
My heart blooms suddenly—the delinquency of being alive.
We rest at Ponderosa, inhale
from its bark, the sweetness, an infidelity.
The dead still stand here centuries later.
The canyon bursts open a boneyard of bristlecone in blue, the sky so certain—
gnarled trunks support branches, poised
petrified lightening, limbs
held up in terror
Wind-carved fissures filled with termite families burrow and devour history,
because the earth won’t waste one single thread. Quiet is a tender animal at our feet, a helix
of sorrow and prayer held in the den of its mouth.
There is nothing here to discover;
when we reach Raintree,
the oldest living thing in Nevada,
we are finally far enough away to be seduced by hope.
The 3,000 year old tree is neither boastful nor glum.
Beneath a heap of roots, thick as thighs, it forges soil, tangled by time into braided bark.
It forks turbulent winds through waxy needles, It asks us to unbutton our souls—
Carnage is compost here,
a harvest for those breathless and bruised.
at 10,000 feet, the air is too thin
to remember how we swore we couldn’t go on.