Releasing the Sherpas

By Campbell McGrath b. 1962 Campbell McGrath
The last two sherpas were the strongest,
faithful companions, their faces wind-peeled,
streaked with soot and glacier-light on the snowfield
below the summit where we stopped to rest.

The first was my body, snug in its cap of lynx-
fur, smelling of yak butter and fine mineral dirt,
agile, impetuous, broad-shouldered,
alive to the frozen bite of oxygen in the larynx.

The second was my intellect, dour and thirsty,
furrowing its fox-like brow, my calculating brain
searching for some cairn or chasm to explain
my decision to send them back without me.

Looking down from the next, ax-cleft serac
I saw them turn and dwindle and felt unafraid.
Blind as a diamond, sun-pure and rarefied,
whatever I was then, there was no turning back.

Source: Poetry (October 2012).

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This poem originally appeared in the October 2012 issue of Poetry magazine

October 2012
 Campbell  McGrath

Biography

Born in Chicago to Irish-Catholic parents, McGrath earned his BA from the University of Chicago and MFA from Columbia University. Influenced by Walt Whitman, James Wright, Sylvia Plath, and Rainer Maria Rilke, McGrath writes predominantly free-verse, long-lined, documentary poems deeply engaged with American popular culture and commerce. A master of the long poem, he has also written many prose poems as well as shorter lyrics.

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Living, Life Choices, The Body, The Mind, Activities, Sports & Outdoor Activities, Travels & Journeys, Nature, Weather, Winter

POET’S REGION U.S., Midwestern

Poetic Terms Sonnet

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