This dumbbell bee must be working
the half-dozen highest buttercups on earth.
Low alpine sun, bright enough to hurt.
Under my feet a 7-acre snowbank gargles
like gangster summer, riddled with kitchen taps.
Folding the map to a hat I squint under its brim
at the bee that can’t get enough.
Corollas needlepoint moss. Way above
timberline and the tundra still corny
with blossom. Each cliff face, the same
machine of prey, able to wipe my brains
on its next stone. I come because
the useless is pure Greek.
At the back of each columbine’s head,
a consort of blue trombones.
The typical sublime of these glacial valleys!
Their sky a bag of snakes, their wind
the usual life of crime. Terrain
as if gravity always won. This depth
sensed under my boots–not all
snow’s an orchard flowing south.
A crater lake the map finds
too small for a name, ice-banked
800 feet down. Clear edges darkened
to bottled dye toward the center.
My first longest throws won’t reach,
then the splashed rock–waffling under water
blue-green as Engleman spruce.
A climber fallen and slowly turning
in this bad dream, beautiful
beyond my knowing how, its slash of bubble
threading the inner ear.
Holding hands with a driven bee,
surveying granite weather. Due east,
racks of cumulus scud the plains
like garlands of hot cream. Day sets.
Distant strip-farms of wheat
go blood ripe, then one dusk bruise.
The miles of braided stream, Jasper Creek
panicked half a degree from ice.
A country saves what’s worthless for last.
Climbing down to the tent, twilight
should be enough. The wildflower stars.
These priceless leavings we now
Sunset over brute force. Yes,
“War is the father of all”; and “Everything
moves through everything else.”
At last, Heraclitus, we two are alone.
“That simply amazing rock on which you sat–
admit it was this rock.” After 25
hundred years I know Heraclitus
is not even dust. And that he agrees.
Together we praise
the intelligence of fire, staring out
into every distance there is.