Interlude on Mustagh Tower

In these high places we are melting out
of all that made us rigid; our ice-screws
hang loose on the fixed ropes to the Col.
Monday in the Himalaya, the clouds are down,
our objective is somewhere, but obscured -
let it soar without us for a day!
We lounge in thermals on the glacier,
brewing and 'shooting the breeze', that improbable
project of conversation among the living.
Laughter rings across the ice. Why not?
None of us will die today - that's immortality
you can draw on in a cigarette,
harsh and sweet, the way we like it.
Steam rises from the billy, Sandy pours.
It is true high, worked for, that we pass
hand to hand between us with our brews.
Men on ice, going nowhere and laughing
at everything we cannot see but know
is there - among the cloud, on the Col,
a hand of some sort is tightening our screws.

This Life, This Life: New and Selected Poems 1976-2006

Last updated March 28, 2023