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A Quarterly Journal
Jeffrey Woodward, Founder & General Editor
Volume 9, Number 3, September 2015

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Matthew Caretti
Flushing, New York, USA


Prayer Flags

   for Erin

The Khumbu Glacier rides blue above the moraine. A silted trickle glares the morning sun. We are alone. Two brothers atop this mass of receding ice. We are oxygen-deprived and hungry. Unskilled in the ways of the high mountains.

Om Mani
a cairn crumbles
into itself
our weary legs falter
in day-old footprints

We rouse ourselves with a spontaneous anthem. Blur’s “Song 2,” or at least the “woohoo” refrain that we can recall. Shouts reverberate from the vertical walls of Pumori, Nuptse, even Sagarmatha herself looming at the valley’s end.

cheap imitation
from the local market
climber’s pants
lost in the shadow
of this deepest valley

Within the echoes my spirit rises high above our glacial path. I watch a pair of bodies move slowly through the ice and slush. Dark specks upon this white land. A slip of foot returns me. I am again of this world.

with each step
a shining breath
becomes prayer
the thin air collides
with sunburned lips

At Gorak Shep, a boulder field. Between each rock, heaps of frozen feces and pink toilet paper stirred by unsteady winds. Prayer flags of the uninitiated. Those stricken by altitude and undercooked lentils.

Shangri-La
squatting low over
the old map
topo lines blur
on melting snow

In the distance, the allure of golden-domed tents from some newly arrived expedition. But we keep to our own path. Make our own ascent. Gaining Kala Pattar, we move past mountain stones polished by ice and wind.

summit view
the Holy Mother sends
down a blessing
the light of morning sun
as two brothers embrace


Author’s Note: Kala Pattar: meaning “black rock” in Nepali, a minor summit on the south ridge of Pumori. Holy Mother: literal translation of the Tibetan name (Chomolungma) for Mt. Everest.

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