Back to Issue Twenty-Seven.

Sighting: Almost


Vernal Falls, Yosemite National Park

Never mind the 600 stairs carved in granite
or my guide, a man with a mustache
and no concept of “almost,” or my moaned

why are we going up this hill, at every hill,
or his response that what comes up
must go down, 
or the somewhere

we’ve almost reached. Mind instead
the three freshmen who breached
the safety rail for a picture on the rocks

and were swept over the falls by a river
gorged with the melting snowpack.
How they must have held each other

in their descent before the Merced
broke them apart.
That was some time ago.

An old man hiking with his son-in-law
flatters me: You are only pretending
to be tired to make us feel

better. The truth: I have come here
to learn how not to kill myself.
My guide takes my picture many times

as we ascend. He captures Half Dome,
El Capitan, Nevada Falls, and me, a sloped
silhouette before the sun.



Sighting: Avalanche


John Muir Trail, Yosemite National Park

Descent should be easy, but the granite
molted like thunder and undid the trail.

The root: water and winter, then spring
and water. The bloom: a cleaving. I picked over

the rocks and broken boughs
and a ground mulched soft.

I carried you to the mouth
of the trail when I meant to recover

only myself. You see, I was the ghost,
and you rose to sing, to be torn to pieces.

Donika Kelly is the author of the chapbook Aviarium (500 Places 2017) and the full length collection Bestiary (Graywolf 2016), winner of the 2015 Cave Canem Poetry Prize, the Kate Tufts Discovery Award, and a Hurston/Wright Legacy Award, and long listed for the National Book Award. She is an Assistant Professor at Baruch College, where she teaches creative writing.


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