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.