Base Camp

How much oxygen
to ask a question,
to rattle a crack-lipped
whisper,
a one-word lie?

Other animals exist
in an endless present—
ice and light,
speed or crawl, waves
of whatever is this and now.

Of course there’s us—
the only breathing bodies
free enough not
to show up to ourselves,
for whom, if we can

summon strength,
being anywhere
is always in doubt.
Why? Why bother?
Because what is there?

With everything
our bodies know,
strong or broken,
we never have the luxury
of making ourselves simple.

Everywhere is always
uneasy, an altitude
of sudden storms, weak
footholds, frostbite, crevasse,
black and blue terrain.

 

About this poem:

"I wrote this poem last year, trekking for a month in the Himalayas in the early spring, when the snow was melting at lower altitudes but a moody storm season had settled in. Early in the trek, I received news that the same flight from Kathmandu to base camp I had taken just two days before crashed on the mountain landing strip. Only a few passengers survived. I was startled into this poem by the mute severity of the mountains, the precariousness of life, how doubtful our foothold."

Tom Healy

More by Tom Healy

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Like Most Revelations

(after Morris Louis)

It is the movement that incites the form,
discovered as a downward rapture—yes,
it is the movement that delights the form,
sustained by its own velocity.  And yet

it is the movement that delays the form
while darkness slows and encumbers; in fact
it is the movement that betrays the form,
baffled in such toils of ease, until

it is the movement that deceives the form, 
beguiling our attention—we supposed
it is the movement that achieves the form.
Were we mistaken?  What does it matter if

it is the movement that negates the form?
Even though we give (give up) ourselves
to this mortal process of continuing,
it is the movement that creates the form.