Monday, December 27, 2010

Denali by Eric Biggs

Denali climbed the sky, clouds snow strewn
caught in wisps on its peak like rose
petals thrown before the cruelty of a conqueror.
Silent, the brazen village waited. Winds that poured
off the slopes came in buckets with icebergs.
Dogs barked. An old woman with a crinkled face
brought frybread. An old man with wrinkles showed me
houses fallen into the sea and crumbled. I asked him who
was the mayor, so I’d know him. I am, he said.

A guide took me to the south-slope glacier. We smoked Camels.
We saw no grizzlies that day, but the thunder
in a clear sky made him look. For early lunch, we ate
sea biscuits with a sardine, and set off
toward the village to not get
caught on the ice after dark.

The medicine man in the fourth house
asked if I wanted to pray.
No, I thought--I came here to help
people, not pursue fairy tales.
He looked at me. Did he want an answer?

This helps the people, he said.
How did he know I thought that?

Yes, I said. Okay. I will.
He made me a kit and told me what
I needed to know to use it.
Thank you, I said.
He looked at me.
The pause stretched past the woodstove
as it rattled with the morning.
I fidgeted.
Think nothing of it, he said.
He smiled.
Thank you, I said.
You already said that, he said, and laughed.

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