Navajo Peak (a poem in two voices)

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spectacular navajo, arapahoe, and shoshone peaks as seen in summer across isabelle lake in the indian peaks wilderness area, near nederaland, colorado
Shutterstock

In the winter of 1948 a plane crashed in the Indian Peaks west of Boulder, Colorado. It took three days to recover the three bodies. One victim left behind a two-year old son in Seattle. Twenty-five years later and thirty-five years ago, that son hiked up that mountain.

I

I go into the mountain where the body of my father lay

Where the wreckage of the plane he rode is scattered.

Returning each time, to wander near it,

To climb the peak above it, Navajo,

Straining to sense the presence of my father’s grave.

I have looked into the faces of other men,

searching there as well for a father lost.

I never found him behind their eyes,

struggling to see a son they never knew.

I looked to find him within myself,

as father to my own, but he is not me.

He is not here; I have dreamed of him

and even in the dream have never seen him.

Once he spoke to me through the image and voice

of another, using my father’s words.

But he is nowhere here inside me,

So I go to where I know he was.

I go into the mountain where the body of my father lay

To stand amid the exploding instant of his death.

Suffusing his spirit’s home with my own spirit,

To dream beneath the mountain wall and sky,

Carrying back more than the metal of his shattered coffin.

II

Guardian of your father’s mountain

I watch you strive to conquer that

jagged peak where you seek who knows

exactly what—some real touch with

your physical infant beginnings,

some knowledge, some truth.

I watch you once, twice, try but

fail to stand at that high granite ledge

where he fell and was consumed by

sacred heat, melted with the ancient geology.

I will watch you again struggle to

make your connection. From the love

in my heart come these whispering words:

You do not have to hurl yourself

against that hard mountainside–

You are whole and free to soar,

released by the final momentary

blessings of your father whose

life spills into yours forever.

Deborah Hailey, a retired librarian, lives in downtown Boulder, with her cat, Crunchy.

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