The Bones of Mountaineers

Climbing into Connection

Mountaineers haunt themselves.
Knowing the shapes they choose,
ghosts lie in the marrow of bones
and the leather of abandoned
boots of those who climbed before.
Unseen hands tug one’s gaiters,
there’s a soft push from behind,
a voice whispers in one ear.
Unease keeps tent zippers tight
against zithering frozen fingers
reaching for a memory.

Minds may stumble when
one’s air or resolve grows thin;
reason may fail to find a hold,
but hearts, bound with blood,
rope our past and the now.
Heart ties courage and trial
to rogues, risk, and pain,
so when our ropes jerk tight,
and a voice cries, “Belay’s on!”
 we trust, under our skulls
and far beyond our skin,
to the connection in our bones.

We who dare airless ascents
are not in love with death,
but a slow dance we’ll take,
as long as when the music stops
there’s breath enough to tell
our story of doubt or bravery,
or tell of when we stood
and nothing went higher
but our voices and our gladness.