by Barbara Lawhorn


Rattlesnake Gulch. We switchbacked mid

morning, up the sides of Eldorado Canyon.

I was high on sunlight, elevation, lack

of sleep. Far from home. Hung over

from 16 hours in the car, an excess

of joy-confusion, the six drinks with

and after dinner. One shoulder kissed

by carpet burn. We fucked the night

before, and I was raw hung up

on that. You were a horse I rode

for your elegant sheen of wild.

The reckless train of your words.


At dinner, the world softened, lost its edges

through the warmth of tequila. Your chest hair

was a pelt I wanted to tame with measured

stroking. Your angular face that of a fox,

peering. Your shoulder length hair, I laughed

about brushing, and later did. How I kissed

the top of your head, you between my knees.


Maybe for you it was the black dress, or

my breasts. I can’t guess really, only remember

your mouth covering nipple, how unsuccessfully silent

I tried to be for your neighbors. Your privacy.

The wordless dark you disappear in.


I had no right to ask for what I took.

Comfort called for—to be given, not grasped at.


Silence, the expansive swath

of it we shared at the overlook.


I should just think of the mountains, not as metaphors,

but as simple backdrops of massive rocks, nothing

more. All the stories we wrote to one

another were the safety ropes we intricately

knotted in our aloneness and maybe we

aren’t alone in the same way, now.

All of the words I spoke, the night before,

fell from my mouth like stones I did not intend

to throw. I wish I could stack them, a cairn

where the trail converges. You were kind


to the overweight, out of breath, middle aged

man, we encountered on the comedown. I saw

myself in his red faced, sweaty seeking, so far

from where he was actually headed. Poor bastard.

Afterward, I placed my hand in the crook of your arm,

said You have a good heart, and then we held

hands like church goers, or chaste friends.


It’s all overwrought poetically, I know this.

As lost as I’ve been, this fact isn’t lost on me.

The hiking. The mountains. Us. But I momentarily

rested in enjoying my hand in the hot cave

of your arm. Your astounding patience

for the awkward mess of me. When I was

a precipitous cleft, a ravine left in the wake of a torrent

you were observant without noticeable fear. Look,

I said and you looked without flinching or hesitation

at me, into me. Nothing can shake off your shine.


The remains of the old hotel, where we paused

on the ascent, from this far away vantage

point, seem to mean something too about what is built

and can’t be maintained at such inaccessible heights.

Months later, I survey my dead garden from the back

porch of my Midwestern home, and that architectural

carcass seems a message about my body, my life, the stories

we unfolded like maps that led, thiswaythiswaythisway

to our good hearts, those terribly unknown, darkly

beating terrains, we asked one other to navigate.