Donner Summit

By Roy Dean Doughty
Written 6/3/08

The traveler cuts his ascent up and through the backs
Of the Sierras, reticular clouds layering gray and white
Dollops over peaks mottled with the last of winterÂ’s snows,
The red and grey fellsÂ’ severity only interrupted
Tentatively by thin black, spades of spruce.
Here, the traveler, watching indigo jays acrobat through
The nearly barren trellises of blasted pine,
At last stops scheming to modify the world
To his advantage. The quarrelsome deceits
Of the urban planners fade from his mind,
And all of his dexterous justifications drift
Like ashes across the phrase: “Yes, yes,
I have seen too little, and have hurled too much
Iron on the feathery ways of heaven,” Now,
He comes, perhaps for the first time, to his
Tragic role, without those usual twinges
Of citified breathlessness, his suddenly-agendas
Shrinking to minutia among these enormous splendors,
His mind growing empty and his senses sharp.
What could he possibly think now, as the birds slash purples
Through the emptiness of the foreground,
While the immense motifs of the mountains
Group inhumanly behind? And what could he possibly
Feel now when that state of consciousness predicated
On all the uncertainties of maybe is seized
By the jayÂ’s agility and streaked across this ageless grandeur?
Certainly he will still be ascending, up,
And further up, when something quick releases him
For an instant finally long enough to savor.

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