I Do Remember Untersberg
The lack of anything discernible, the sudden erasure of definition, the immersion into grey-white nothingness, is fearful, claustrophobic. When there is nothing to negotiate, no ‘other’ to confront, one’s solitariness is terrifying. Like an untethered astronaut tumbling through space, one imagines one might be dead, or at least that if one were dead, it might be like this. One hears the faintest hush, not from afar like a distant cascade, but close, like a blanket against the skin, worming its way inside the ears, a wave of uncertainty – the sound cold makes.
Climbing inside a descending cloudmy feet chance upon a young girl’s face,
a plaque beside the forgotten place
where she slipped on loose gravel,
tumbled to her death so far below
they could not find her broken corpse
and when they did, could not protect
it from the kites and hawks
or retrieve it from untrusted scree.
Had she too been lost in a cloudthat day she aspired to a new view
over the top, a mountaineer’s dream,
when her boot dislodged the stones
that bounced and gathered speed
beside her, each a hidden marker
on the bread crumb trail to her death.
As though the mountain welcomed herand would not send her back
into the world of lesser men.
I am on my knees
inches from her face.
The icy fog encases me like one of Franklin’s men
whose horrid grimace answered that pointless forage.
Once, on a summer slope ripe with saxifrage,orchid, rock jasmine, edelweiss,
the trail rough cut through turf and shale,
the hot July sun scorching the safe ascent,
in my coltish nerve, I leaped across
the tedious switchback curves, straight for the top,
stumbling through hollows and outcrops
across meadow mined with treachery.
I heard the scrape of boot on stoneand knew not what I had begun.
The missile sprung unbounded
in an arc falling from my sight
skipping down upon a pasture, or a traveller
walking in the sweet morning‘s warmth.
I waited for blessed silence,and took the certain path home
hoping not to be seen, or to find.
A mountain absorbs a man’s murderous folly,
and remains, as though nothing
will change, except the man.