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D. Nurkse

Domodossola

We woke early, my father and I,
to hike into back country.
He had no need of a path.
Star-shaped alder leaves,
minnow-slim elm leaves,
hairy and gray in the half light,
parted to let him pass.
I followed. Surely I fitted
into that long methodical stride
like the minute hand in the hour?

Still in worked land,
we passed a dray horse
snaffling and pissing in sleep.
Geese complained bitterly
when we encroached on their pond.

Then the forest with its four storeys:
oak, cedar, mountain ash, moraine.
We climbed the spine of a dry waterfall.

When we came to the snow line
he took my hand. I had to skip,
shivering and comforted.

The lakes of that cirque
are so cold, you see your face
create itself: drop a pebble,
watch yourself shatter
and calmly re-assemble.

At noon we came to the summit
in time to hear a bell echo.

With pity we looked down
at the smoke-wisps, thread-roads,
minute oxen ploughing stamp-fields.

Did it happen just once, or always,
that he settled beside me and folded
his stiff legs, to peel
a blue veined hard-boiled egg?
When we finished a heel of bread
he strode by a path he alone knew
into the mountains of the air,
and I scrambled down, breathless,
with the shell in my pocket.