From "The Monologues of Verplanck Colvin."
Roger Mitchell
From Adirondack


The night we burned a mountain by mistake,
the men quivered setting their packs down.
Who had no more food, the deer startled off
by our scrambling through unbroken forest,
burdened with gear. Vernier calipers,
rods, chains. The delicate theodolite,
its box and harness. Three hundred pounds
stretchered like a sultan or a sultan's
pet wife, like creamy Cleopatra over
gorge and precipice, through swamp and windslash.

I think of that. Of that alone, sometimes.

And the men. I don't know why they did it,
those who did, those who didn't stalk off cursing
through the snow. They cheered. In the freezing gales
they cheered, when I marked and read and reread four times,
to be sure, and wrote down in the great ledger,
in a slowed hand, the last point on Marcy.
How could they not cheer? Here, the earth unraveled,
cold, remote, treeless at its peak. And now,
we knew its height, above Paris, London,
even the pyramids, the scuttled barge,
above her calm, wrapped body.