Sunday, April 14, 2013


That afternoon on Steens Mountain, Thunder came walking
up the valley in his black hat and white tails.
Bolts blasted the ridge above my head, giant feet of ice
stomped the stone. He poked his bony face
into the tent where I huddled, poles bending
under the weight of massed hail. "Hey, Tiel,
watch me pick this tent up and sail it off the mountainside!"

I'd been there alone, most of four weeks
walking the mountainside mapping shrinking snowfields, drawing transects
to measure the swift eruption of life in that short, short summer.
At nine thousand feet the air is thin
and sun is savage, knife-shaped,
will scar your retinas. You can go snow-blind
standing on bare rock.
Meanwhile the sere basins a mile below swirl with alkali dust
and spit up strange weather.

That's where I dreamed I wasn't the only me.
My parents had an older daughter by the same name. She died:
there was a car crash (I knew this in my dream) and I
was second-born and named for her. Or I was
her daughter, somehow rescued from the wreckage
of her body. My parents (grandparents)
hid this truth--

so I would believe I was the only Tiel
ever. Unique, isolate, atomic,
island as no man truly is, like this mountain in the middle of a desert
ringed by long-dead lakes, part of no cordillera, no Great Divide,
no family of shining peaks linked by tales of quarreling brothers or beautiful sisters.
Steens Mountain has no siblings.
I have no sister by the same name as me.

Thunder Skull-Face laughed. "Think you're special
'cause you've got a funny name?
Think you don't have any sisters?
Think again."

Available! High-Voltage Lines, Knocking from Inside

1 comment:

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