Alpine

1.

Heat humbles those who stay below.
…. Fireweed furs the trail’s edge.
We make for a far-up peak, aglow
…. In sunlight. The high ledge

Disappears into cold white ahead.
…. Once we’re past the tree line,
Snow-fields begin to spread
…. Up the mountain’s spine.

Constellations of moss campion
…. Rear amethyst arrays
On heaps of Precambrian stone,
…. Flaked tan and warmer clays,

Some crude and high as burial mounds
…. Upraised from the moraine,
Barren but bound and bordered round
…. By blooms of leopardbane.

2.

In black a tempest begins, orographic
Lifting after the Pacific. Ominous
Rain-shadows join slower mountain-shadows.
Our leader, disheartened, says we must turn back.

Twenty degrees drop in seconds. We feel
There is still time to pause at an alpine
Lake before the coming squall,
Watching light that alters the lake’s crystalline

Depths and August ice-bergs: Bright white crests,
Aquamarine along edges that blur
Into celestial blue and emerald chests
Below a surface of perfect water.

Hail arrives. In its shower of icy pellets
We sense we are, this high, truly powerless.
Looking back, the cold and storm-consumed summit
Could be on Mars, vacant and flowerless.

3.

Down in town, I’m again alone.
…. I listen to the flow
Of the creek over its bed of stone
…. To the valley below.

A coral-colored crown of cloud
…. Gives way to twilight
And constellations that crowd
…. In to bring the night.

I’m almost startled by star fields,
…. So massive and dense here.
Though I no longer see it, I feel
…. The lost mountain appear

Even in the dark, at first uncertain
…. How this could be. How could I
Know the position of a mountain
…. Invisible to the eye?

4.

Though I can’t see the peak, I know its shape
…. At night as a space where the stars
Go out around the edges of the landscape,
…. Surfacing snout of black that bars

The starlight, crypt of ice and ancient rock:
…. Unattainable recess,
Measured only by what it blocks,
…. Necklaced in witches thimble and bittercress,

Created as it erases, and lit
…. In contrary by black forced high,
Forged in furnaces of frost, and infinite
Energies, to consume us, and the sky.

Ernest Hilbert

Ernest Hilbert

Ernest Hilbert is the author of three collections of poetry, Sixty Sonnets (2009), All of You on the Good Earth (2013), and Caligulan (2015). His fourth collection, Last One Out, will be published by Measure Press in 2018. He lives in Philadelphia where he works as a rare book dealer. 
Ernest Hilbert

Latest posts by Ernest Hilbert (see all)

Author: Ernest Hilbert

Ernest Hilbert is the author of three collections of poetry, Sixty Sonnets (2009), All of You on the Good Earth (2013), and Caligulan (2015). His fourth collection, Last One Out, will be published by Measure Press in 2018. He lives in Philadelphia where he works as a rare book dealer.