The Mountains

at first they were impossible to get to,
miles, tests, enigmatic to achieve
   for a flatland kid,
people who could only be acting out
 as smudgy criminals, apostates
or swarthy child prodigies, sinewy gods
lived there on a stage of immaculate photographs,
  polygamous pasturages, dried fruits,
      enshrined by snowcaps
their survival & medicinal arts
   standing out in geography texts
       under a sentence
  demonstrating how GDP could be won from barter

travel then, the only way up
to a remote ideology, some say
an unpretentious outcropping, beautiful,
some say toxic tailings,
drone imagery of the positions
  of an insurrection 'in tin'
  (they couldn't ever cooperate
   much less leave them alone
   when suddenly everything turned to big rock candy
well below the jet stream
forced south snowing-in the peace, the locals
took the forecast off a bird, also traveling
along a shangri-la massif, of sedentary & generic lore
into which it disappears as a satellite
   (nothing, some say)

'youngest brothers under heaven
  attract sisters to a roof of sky,'
cheese wheels transport them to & from

dependencies hang in the air:
   pine smoke, power lines

a family re-bonds on crucial hikes,
its superficial matters compressing into obsidian
(bloody garb of skins distinguishes sedimentary generations
    of illusive prey
while in innocence scree kids (goat proteges)
 split off to seek earth's pinnacles

prayer flags refine at wind's command
  into half-numb bourgeois adventures,
deep valley repression is confessed to anyone nearby
  trekking earthsoul remains
  (the nitty-gritty of elevated human love)

'there go walking
athlete aesthete scientist orogeny-beings'
is rhapsodized in spaces between polises

ranges coil around sky,
born from vulcanism, a snake slumbering
on the dark horizon's contour line
witnesses every ascent, adjudicating the heights
of each gonzo paradise immanent with physiology,
capable of biting a fuzzy head swaddled
 in high-tech fastness
 bee-lining its lungs to the top
(naturally oxygen-reduced touch-&-go of brain cells,
an air-cooled 4-cylinder like introspection
  somewhere down there with a broken neck
in the sludge of nations &
    the submergence of divers

alone except for poetry, sole equal in hyperbole
among magma lattices & flowery alps
(hiccups) brought up for the occasion, wine
by some grasped to compensate
  a tied tongue tied tongue

uncairned faceted panoramas anywhere you turn,
mind's plateaus may be addicted
 to absolute snaggletooth stone yonder
 cut by experience below,
a hardsell convincing to death the relativity of  'all welcome
to a brief undreamed life'
('package deal downhill weekend' click click
 of bindings & cameras

(the poet focuses sober
wandering another intertruth divide afar
on fireflies, peaked brushstroke words
commemorating sipping flask whiskey on the brink
  of the avalanche land 'Li Po's Breathing,'
sky pre-twilight azure going pink,
Snowy Owl Lady
 forges ahead on a silent nordic track,
 glides into the caldera's ideogram

—Dave Shortt