After I’ve walked up the auto road
the descent from Pack Monadnock
on the blue-blazed Wapack Trail
almost defeats me. Boulders
and scree, ledge and a trail marked
so poorly I almost tumble
down a hundred-foot gap in the sky.
Ice patches foster bone breaks,
while harsh November sunlight
casts shadows deeper than the eye
in its naked glory can plumb.
My skeleton revolts in its bag
of flesh. Muscles knot and suffer
a lack of elasticity.
The slope feels impractical,
as though the entire mountain
might sluice down to the highway
in a heap of gray apologies.
I don’t remember this trail
feeling so difficult underfoot,
but I haven’t plied it for years.
The last grave stretch of cliff-walking
confuses me so badly I lose
the string of blue blazes and doubt
I can bushwhack so grim a stretch
of bare and almost vertical ledge.
I retrace my steps and recover
the marked trail and stumble down
the last quarter-mile to the road
just as the sun retracts its favors
and allows a sheet of whispers
to slip over the leafless woods.
Tomorrow I’ll try ascending
this slab of primal geometry
by the same steep blue-blazed route.
Then maybe I’ll recover myself
somewhere along the trail
where I left my youthful ego
cursing the icy rock and claiming
dominion it doesn’t deserve.