January 3rd, 2010
(Dedicated to Carl Frey)
First anniversary of best friend’s death and
my broken ankle, events unrelated,
but they did occur on the same date.
I commemorate with a solo backpacking trip
deep into the heart of Pinto Basin,
300 square miles of empty desert,
no roads, no trails, no people.
I need open space for reflection,
and here I am, camped at the old Gypsy Rose well,
thinking it strange I know exactly where I am on the planet,
yet comprehending neither Carl’s life, his death,
nor my own mortality.
Just as a closet, no matter how big, always gets filled,
my spirit expands to the size and shape of its surroundings.
This vastness doesn’t make me feel insignificant,
I feel as if I belong,
as if I were a part of this immensity,
and Carl would’ve too were it not for
one year ago today.
Lying on my back in desert sand,
feet south, head to Polaris,
I dream of other worlds and other peoples,
identifying stars and constellations,
Orion, Taurus, Capella, Auriga, Pleiades.
No clouds, no moon, just stars overhead
burning yellow, white, red,
a fiery phantasmagoria
etched in the human psyche
since the dawn of creation.
I think of the old desert rats and miners
who must’ve gone quietly insane,
from the loneliness, perhaps,
but more likely from
Paul Hellweg has been an avid backpacker and mountain climber for decades. He fancies himself a poet too. www.paulhellweg.com