ascent to base

summit other time perhaps

This morning I pushed rinsed romaine lettuce
down into a pyrex bowl.
I patted the leaves with a paper towel
and was reminded of your tragedy.
We had gathered what was needed;
our Scarpa Phantom 8000 boots and heavyweight Balaclava
caused us to us stare and draw breath,
and the Windstopper fleece gloves and Arcteryx Alpha suits were pristine
and smelled of victory and packing silica.
Our lightweight titanium crampons promised life
and a victory picnic back home,
where, in glad repose under shade trees
we would say “escarpment”.
The Black Diamond Express Ice Screws scared us, though.
Our sherpas were named Pringle and Huffhurr, I think,
and they bridled at our giggling pronunciations,
brusquely asked to see our water-resistant gloves
“for the icefall.”
When we looked at each other
they looked at each other
with the flattened windburned faces of Shangri-La.
Even then we imagined summiting to Bacharach and David’s
“Living Together, Growing Together”.
Do you have a heat-exchanging wire mask
to prevent Khumbu-cough? Pringle asked peremptorily.
Yes, of course, I lied.
What should have been our foreboding
was subsumed in our egg-nog-emboldened braggadocio.
The night before the ascent your salad spinner broke.
Another portent.
Murdering Nepalese winds howled and clawed,
our Eureka Alpenlight 2XT flapping like a terrorized schoolgirl.
Nevertheless you patted the wet lettuce
and it cut you through the paper towel,
and Huffhurr shouted in a Navajo-voice
“why are you petting those leaves!”
Our wind-bronzed chaperones awakened me at dawn
and silently pointed, their hands over their mouths.
You were frozen, naked in your sleeping bag,
a solid-state adventure tourist,
the whites of your eyes dulled bargain ivory,
your laughing joy-face made stupid
by a profuse yapful of frost-blackened romaine.

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