White Mountains, Ten Hues

Shaded snow between the rocks
step over, bridge, go around
edges scuffed with mossy melt
stay on firmer ground.

Ice that’s packed along the path
crystals sleep in slush
tromped by boots or huskies
sometimes sliding into mush.

Sheets and planes of early drifts
crust above but weak below
sometimes you can prance on top
others crash, post-hole.

Crushing, crawling off the path
surface tenuous, face ruddy
buttress-splayed legs, knees, hands
slipping to thicket, scratch, bloody.

A thin sheet now, a single inch
heels trodding on fermented
cranberries pulped on lichen
pink rises, ice accented.

Upon the knob the snow recedes
against the pale spectrum of sky
three hundred degrees for you to see
five below to feel when up this high.

Among the spires and rocky crowns
are pastry-sculpted sugar waves
beneath in crannies, dens and downs
the hoary marmot plays.

Behind the peak the arctic wind
roars fiercely fast and throwing
a haze of flakes, a dainty dance
across the surface glowing.

The midnight sun, it never shirks
midday would be no more bright
staring off towards Yukon but
one more spire? Not tonight.

Returning by a different route
weary wondering how journey ends
the froth atop an icy beer
inside, with new-found friends.

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