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Sport 35: Winter 2007

The mountain inside

The mountain inside

The stench steamed
off our bodies: water, blood, mud, saliva,
sweat pinned for days between folds of skin.

We went single file,
eyes on the pack in front,
feet cracked and numb.

Sometimes the wall of wind
stopped even our shortest steps—
then we clung

to the man ahead,
the leather straps on him,
and waited for some voice in the sky.

It didn't come.
One lost a toe,
another his entire pack,

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which flew out of his hands
and upwards
like a prehistoric bird.

One started shrieking, chanting in
his native tongue, until his boots
came apart where he stood.

Finally, we finished—stinking and distrustful,
stomachs sick
from the mountain inside.

But the welcome party did not appear—
the meeting place was empty
except for a rabbit.

And we sat under a leaking sky, the
road streaking out beneath us
to the valley.

Somebody tried to speak. We
would have beaten him if we
had the strength.