Starting to write poetry pretty much coincided with finding crampons I thought I no longer had. And the poem “Crampons” led me back to snow and ice, after a long gap.
The compression of poems, often on a single page, lends itself to the intensity of experience climbing brings. And judgment of line, use of space and balance are important in poems, as they are in climbing.
David Wilson’s chapbook Slope was recently published by smith/doorstop books, available here. The author’s proceeds from the sale of this book will be donated to Doug Scott’s Community Action Nepal. -Ed.
I thought I’d given you away.
But opening a jiffy bag in the attic,
there you are: same black spikes
and anti-ball plates, same bindings,
not a fumble with straps, rings, buckles,
but the slip of a boot into a bail,
the pull and snap of a clip.
Tell me again about being single-minded,
about couloirs bulging with fat blue ice
and dawn arriving high in the Alps;
how a slope exists at a perfect angle
where it all might kick in again,
on neve so pure your front-points hold
with just the lightest tap of my toes.
Stob Coire nan Lochan, Winter
Climbing dissolves me in colour,
orange-red blur of heart effort,
blue precision of balancing up.
Ice becomes my picture plane,
the white surface I pattern with marks.
Our line curves up from the drop below
through to the top of our frozen world.
At every point my placements hold.
We rest at the summit. Landscape stills.
Beyond white hills the sun sets
where islands, sky and sea-lochs merge:
I am here again, I am here after all.
We go back the way we came,
share stories in the listening dusk.
Above Stob Coire’s silhouette
two stars balance a crescent moon.
We’ve had our fill of edge and jagged and carrying
weight. How good to be back on flat ground,
an Alpine village, tables under the stars,
pizza stringing up to our mouths,
glasses of red leading us south.
Who knows what starts us laughing, perhaps
Paddy’s joke about three dogs at the vet’s
or Hilary quoting her dad’s secret diary
but it all follows in one mass,
our lives, whatever possessed us.
Eyes stream, we gulp for air,
our laughter tonight a funnel
through which everything passes,
everything that’s happened,
everything that will.