by Greg Baysans

Poet X

Base Camp

Tonight I leave for Base Camp 2, afraid but ready. 

Nothing but the whiteness of the snow.

I could write a chapter on the silence.

Food has no appeal. I've eaten little, just enough

for strength to climb. Every step potential death.

But I've studied, practiced, equiped myself.

I go alone. I go alone. I go alone.

The first steps are the easiest and hardest

and from there? The unbearable whiteness

and need to trample self-doubt with every step.

Keep the goal in mind.

Keep in mind those who have gone before.

Battle self-doubt. Repeat the cycle over again,

keep the goal in mind. The goal is

suddenly meaningless. Do I go on?

There is no turning back once you start,

no stopping, no rest. I feel the need to rest.

The first sign of freezing to death is sleepiness.

This storm I thought would pass has not.

Building a fire is impossible. I'm cold.

I'm slipping in an explosion of colors, hallucinations. 

Maybe there is no Base Camp 2. What then? 

I'm sure there is no Base Camp 2. I've become lost,

there is no one to find me, no one knows I'm here. 

Keep the goal in mind.

One step. Two steps. White. White. 

I'm a paperboy again in the snow,

one mile forward, one mile back,

one step at a time. I can do it. I will.

A book I'm in the middle of is waiting when I finish.

Tomorrow I'll have the same route again and

the next day and the next and next.

I'm delivering papers all these years later.

I pass corpses, those who died on the way.

Keep the goal in mind. Some have succeeded.

One step. Two. White. White.

"There is no distance but the present moment"

is no consolation when the moment is cold.

So the goal is heat. I climb on,

besieged by another new storm. Do I have

provisions enough?

Blindness. Silence. The specter of madness.

I'm halfway there, to Base Camp 2.

Step. Step. White. White. White.

I close my eyes for the only contrast to the white,

black. White. Black. Tears would freeze. Step. Step.

"Base Camp" appears in Jan. 2008 Tipton Review of Poetry