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Scaling Together

A poem by Chase Ambler

bald mountain

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Scaling Together

Born in the forest stream,
You played among the young
Saplings of aspen groves.
Wooded embrace kept you
Near and from seeing far.
Till one day the peak called
From far above the pines.
Mountain skull staring down
Devoid of all but rock,
Yet it beckoned to you
With that ancient stone gaze.

Alone it was daunting.
You had to find the one
Who would carry your pack
When you no longer could.
You searched the valley floor.
All the while the summit
Called down through wailing winds
And lured with silky breeze.
But you would have to wait
Till I hiked over the
Ridge and into your arms.

We found the path, anxious,
brimming with life and hope
Bathed in golden hues from
Light through autumn-clad trees.
The trail wound up and up
And step by step we rose.
No fallen tree too tough,
No mossy stone too slick.
We traveled together,
And that was everything.

Years seemed to pass before
We left the main forest
And hobbled our way to
Where the gnarled bark stood.
Exhausted and afraid
We took solace knowing
These were bristlecone pines.
Centuries of knowledge
Within their twisted limbs,
And still they lived each day
To soak up the sun’s light
No matter what aged
Form their bodies took now.

The trail wound up and up,
And stop by stop we rose.
Sometimes losing the path
To scramble over sharp
Scree with packs weighing down.
But my hand was always
There to pull you over
The gigantic boulders.
Your arms to stop my falls
When menacing talus
Slipped out from underfoot.

With little oxygen
We did not speak too much.
Your gaze and weathered mien
Were as old as the peak
And told me everything.
When the alpine tundra
Gave way to bleak, gray rock
It seemed that only death
Had its bony clutches
Around these highest lands,
And we were heading there.
It was our only trail.

Decades seemed to pass
But we scaled together.
Together we made it
With spent muscles and bones,
And together we saw
Entire worlds below.
We sat there shivering
Enjoying each other
Until the final wind
Blew over the summit.
But we scaled together,
And that was everything.

 

~Reflection~

This poem is a blending of realities for me. I wanted to show a long lasting relationship over years and years by comparing it to a couple climbing a mountain. As it so happens my wife and I climb a lot of mountains, so while this couple has their entire lives together condensed into one hike, the real relationship I’m in is still ongoing, still climbing—if you will.

The idea was to show that as the couple aged, their lives may have become harder, but more meaningful, and it brought them together in reliance upon each other. In the valley, life is easier, the plants are lush and water flows carefree, but as the couple ascends the plants become more scarce, the path becomes harsher, the air thinner, and death looms closer and closer. Their way becomes harder, but the couple becomes closer, “but my hand was always / there. . . your arms to stop my falls. . .” They become so close that words are no longer needed, which brings us to one of my favorite sections: “With little oxygen / we did not speak too much. / Your gaze and weathered mien / were as old as the peak / and told me everything.”

I seem to be on a syllabic count kick lately, so for this poem each line has six syllables. I think my dislike of rhyme makes me crave some other structure or form that would dictate how the poem is framed. Working within limitations has its advantages and disadvantages, but one of the main reasons I choose it is to keep focus. Without a limiter sometimes my poems can ramble on, but to stick to a syllabic structure forces me to scrutinize every word in the line. Six syllables per line but seven stanzas kind of suggests that the first stanza is less important. I say that because stanza one has the character alone, and the other six stanzas have the characters together. This was unintentional when I was writing the poem, but I kind of like that interpretation looking back at the structure.


Chase Ambelr - HeadshotChase Ambler is an American writer who spent his childhood in South and Southeast Asia. His life has been shaped by strange obsessions: heavy metal music, mountains, travel, and soccer. These subjects have all molded his poetry and prose in some way, but the birth of his daughter may have the greatest impact yet. He lives with his wife, baby daughter, and dog in Colorado. If one went looking for Chase, they could find him anywhere from changing diapers to summiting 14,000 foot mountains, but odds are he’s in front of the computer working on his next novel. Visit the FB page for his Novel: Snowsong

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