Timberline

(Imitation of Pleasure by Carl Phillips)

Standing here—
a precipice from which any
step might prove

your last, and
why not—you start to
wonder whether

this was ever really worth it,
the climb, the falls,
the bloody knees and (only

sometimes) broken arms
left from the violent
scuffle to manage

handholds, the panic
way down at the base
of your spine

spinning vividly out
of control every time
you almost lose your

sick embrace of the stone
that nearly breaks you. You
don’t remember

having anything. Not rope;
not water—which, if you’d had
the rope, you wouldn’t have

lost when you realized
you didn’t have the strength
to hold onto anything

but yourself—without which
would you have learned to
cling like you did to the

unyielding face of
stone, always climbing up,
though the sky seemed

far enough to deem you
Sisyphus and your climb
to the heavens

impossible?
Standing here,
sky is everything.

Stars careen around
the earth like drunken
dancers,

rejoicing in the vast
expanse above the small
blue fleck.

Uncertainty itself
falls out of orbit, leaving room
for the Platonic

spheres. Worth it, when you say so
—and when you don’t.
The climb was never yours.

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