The Easy Bit

The mountain transforms base items into good:
nausea from home-made trail mix and chocolate
burns into energy for the ascent;
the cold that stings the ears
is a new sensation in the Tropics;
to be awake, trudging upwards before dawn,
with little choice, no personal precedent,
seems like freedom.

Yesterday's guide had offered no guidance,
shadowed me like a secret policeman
for five hours' climb through cloud
(an altitude or whiskey headache was comforted
by sound: cicadas, squirrels, swaying trees)
to overnight shelter in a sleep-defying refuge.

This morning's moon illuminates
a lunar landscape on earth's upper crust.
A group of squaddies clatters past
like a noisy British train with a timetable to keep.
A section all by rope bestows a taste of fear,
then only light-headedness can stop me.

I take it easy: pause, walk, pause, walk
unsteadily to the summit of Mt. Kinabalu,
where the camaraderie of minor triumph
renders sociable all who arrive, a-shiver,
to watch the receding night sketch outlines,
etch shadows, release mountain chains
as it flees Borneo.

I gaze down to the foothills where this began,
unconvinced that my unsound legs
have covered so much height.
The descent is shorter, tougher.

Toes rebel inside non-climbing boots.
Knees ache to give up, to buckle and renounce.
Rock gives way to forest,
rhododendrons abound. The body endures.

That climax of conquest at the summit,
a sublime moment free of time,
proves the easy prelude
to a hard descent
to a life it has enriched.

Bryan Murphy

If you've any comments on this poem, Bryan Murphy would be pleased to hear from you.

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