Tent

I hauled from home
a square of blue cloth
to cover me in the wilderness.

Mosquitoes found me anyway.
Someone had said,
Look for the square of blue cloth.

I hunched deep in my mummy bag,
cave deep,
and then the moon exploded phosphorus
on the cirque meadow.
A hundred million galaxies held their breath.

Over there, the moon said.
Under the blue cloth.

His blood still courses.
He is still warm.
He still pretends
he isn’t
one of us.

Persistence Hunting

Everything I know I learned in the wild.

Find water first.
In the heat, find shade.
Wake early.
Eat late.
Adapt.
Take the high ground
and be quiet about it.
When attacked,
fight tooth and claw.
Wear your skin,
your beautiful skin, unknowing,
and when the sky turns
black as your eyes and the stars
arrange themselves in your image,
disappear.
Leave that counterfeit behind.

Survive,
but failing that
lie down, sleep,
and in your other dreams,
through the creeping shade,
chase self-pity til it falls.
They call it persistence hunting:
chase it running until it falls,
collapses, withers on the bone.

Lie down now and sleep.
The cold will take you.
These things were never meant to last.

Ten Haiku Written at 3600 Metres

high on Tincup Pass
thunderclouds form — but far south
a plump pika cries

bumble bee dances
on alpine golden aster
holiday begun

at twilight an owl
curious, cocked his wide head
two-legged elk? he asked

three a.m. panic:
eclipse made me pitch black blind
or else — cap on eyes

the climb short but steep
I hurry to set up camp
sleeping bag leg cramps

done! a fair exchange:
I gave up my trekking pole
the trail offered rain

waiting for David
to get down off the mountain
I’ve finished six poems

switchbacks ease the climb
so why do they seem more like
switchblades in the back?

like a kid’s squeeze toy
pika wants to hide and seek
but I ain’t playing

a skanky motel
outside of Buena Vista
but — Magic Fingers!

Breaking Camp

I am deliberate, breaking camp.
I draw tent pegs out
like a vet pulling quills from a dog.
I don’t tug at the earth
and she settles shaking on my palm.
I fold the tent with Japanese hands,
making envelopes for her;
I fold long-necked birds that fly up
in the warming updraft of the dew.

I am a clock hand in the desert,
slow and circumspect in the rain,
commanding our tent submarine,
a black watch-cap lookout
soaked through again.

I press air from the sleeping bag,
lying full length, fucking the ground.
We make small fires,
extinguish them with small floods.
We will eat everything eventually,
the rock and the elk —
our edges honed smooth,
we fit like all married pieces,
like all married things:
part given, part owned.