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I wonder how many have plunged,

broken bodies against the steep,

unforgiving basalt, to flow far away

from the tether of this rocky outcrop.

There are worse places to die

than underneath a basking ponderosa,

on a glorious day in deep winter,

high, above the earth’s mucosa.

Here is heaven, its gods, the osprey and eagle;

they preside from piney thrones, regal,

and survey with indifferent contemplation;

from their perch, suffering is also celebration.

There are less noble ways to die,

than beneath the wings of geese.

See them glide peacefully

over the rapids of the Spokane,

rage of water in the ears,

shiver of blue sky, full sun.

Yet, if hopeless traveler made the steep climb

to this one, celestial throne:

its blood, a brilliant green moss,

its body, the bare, leafless skeleton of alumroot,

entreating with outstretched arms:

See, the promise of spring.

If they were to navigate loose rock,

on the treacherous path that leads here,

would it be enough to make them cling

to the rock wall in front of me,

this low, precarious barrier between?