We streak along this narrow asphalt ribbon
into the stratosphere, zig-zagging
through switchbacks, slipping
around hairpin curves designed
by mountain goats and built by madmen,
decorated with puny guardrails
that serve no purpose known to man,
and no way off this cursed road where
hell is up, not down – unless, of course,
by some mischance (or blinded
by the sun) we hurtle into space
and final oblivion.
Whey-faced, scarcely drawing breath,
I emit, from time to time, a thin chorus
of bleats and moans and despairing
whinnies, as we skim this knife edge
alongside sure and certain death.
O Lord, I groan, I wasn’t meant for
such awful heights. Let me die safely
at sea level in my bed, peacefully,
of ripe and happy old age, not
crushed and maimed in this tin can
at the bottom of some mountain pass!
O God, I’m not ready to go yet!
Teeth clenched, I practice–too little,
but I’m grounded like a stone,
at the mercy of car and driver,
forced, finally, to confront
the bright, obscenely grinning maw
of absolute, craven fear.
Mesa Verde, 1995