Western Gothic Romantic Classic
Moonlight slips a white knifeblade
inside the tepee door.
The ground is hard and the man
whose lean hipbones hook with hers
is a stranger – mountain climber
he said, first ascent in the Andes,
cited Jefe he said, Peace Corps, strumming
guitar by the campfire where she stumbled in
after a lonely hitch in the badlands
and the black hills. She’s thirsty.
Who asks where water comes from
after a long drought? She drinks all night
from his fountain and he from hers.
He ropes her to his piton and she falls free.
At 3 a.m. she dreams him as Orion
climbing the eastern sky with a sword of stars.
At dawn they wake and laugh; they’re caked
with dirt they beat out of the old sleeping bag.
He asks her to stay, to ride and climb
with him, and she says yes.
Through desert sage and rock they walk
back to the ranch house. Dry country.
Rattlesnakes, she thinks. One thin trickle
piped into the horse corral.
Inside after stark sunlight
it's hard to see –
cougar and bearskin on the bed,
44 magnum and ammunition belt
slung on the bedpost.
From a photo he is smiling
leaning on a rifle
wearing a green beret.
13,000 feet in the San Juan
mountains with Patrick, age 15
A side trail down
as if to water
but the creek is dry –
no path beyond: we think
we'll find it later,
come instead to bones
a deer's bleached ribcage.
A sad place, my son says.
Bare rock‑cliff facing us
we've missed our way:
we backtrack, climb
the ridge and see our path again
stamped into deep grasses.
Not our last sadness:
the winter I left, he came
to visit, wrote on my tenement desk
"I cried for my mom and me."
We ate Christmas dinner on the floor;
we had no table.
Now in our summer hiking
still we carry loads
on our backs, and trailfood.
My son says, look at the stream
running from the peak
and I say where? where?
He says, we'll make it.
Above, a thin scar of path
crosses the mountain's shoulder
to the base
of that gray rock‑tower
where the last scaling starts.