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Phyllis Cole-Dai

                        for Wanda and Tom

I carry your names into the mountains you loved,
though mountains have no need of names—
they know each pilgrim that passes through
by scent and tread. By breaths drawn and spent.

Yet these mountains remember you from
distant days, when you passed this way as two.
Now there’s only one of you, left behind
in haze on the leeward side of life’s last ridge.

In the quiet of the climb, I hear the singing
of wind from the other side. The one who went
ahead too soon is waiting there, stirring wonders
into air through spruces, firs, and pines.

Nothing exists apart forever—not peaks from
clouds, not here from hereafter. Notice how
the sun lies down in the cradle of this ancient
range, how it rides like a lullaby the echo

of spoken names. This high above the gap, mouth
fights to breathe. Body leans into the givens:
the fierce angle of ground, the thinness of air,
the glory of the view. How much longer can this go on?

Too late in the day to turn back now—not enough
light to get back down. But there’s always light
enough to stay. Sink into the dark arms of these heights.
Hear how far the sound of names will carry

even on nights bereft of stars.

Photo by Wes Hicks on Unsplash
Phyllis Cole-Dai

Phyllis Cole-Dai has authored or edited eleven books in multiple genres, including historical fiction, spiritual nonfiction and poetry. She lives in Brookings, South Dakota, USA.

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