POEM: Salkantay: or, Sea-level Gringo

The pass begins

The pass begins

Boulders lay strewn like the dice of God,
moss-covered, on a close-cropped blanket of green.

The Pass educated me,
I’d never known I could see snow and jungle in the same day.
I never knew how thin of air would sustain me.
I still don’t know how a fish out of water
has the death throe energy to spastically flop.

I was a tortoise: plod, stop, resume plodding, repeat.
If I’d been deprived of oxygen to the same degree as that fish,
I’d have just silently fallen off the switchback into the valley below.
Into boulder scree and the carcasses of sea-level dwelling gringos past.