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Mumford Bar to Italian Bar,
a Poem by Julie Holzer

 
For Paul Plathe who slowed the pace,
and Ed, Eric, Ross, Randy, and Paul,
floaters for an hour in that very peaceful place.
 
The American River scrambles sweet, or seething
with so many granite protrusions like a dragon
caught in an avalanche. It has no flat
flower-strewn trail like the boulderless
Metolius, (a slow Oregon river
with the consistency of a benign snake.)
 
I saw him do it, saw the distinctly wet show print - that
sweet spot - at the boulder-to-boulder leap to land a
twenty-pound pack and my boots
on top of the one smooth rock, or fall and crack. I flew,
because the rest of them were so way the hell up ahead
that the exhaling angst of each whisper and groan
of each muscle and bone
could be heard by no one,
but God.
 
I've been told that the miners had a hold rope, told
they took their lusty strides straight up
their mountain silk and shale. The poison
oak-strewn path kept me pathways
and I knew--with shuffling baby steps,
one at a time--that the twenty
four hundred feet of it
would be mine.
 
My daughter,
moppet-headed and track-paced,
strives for an eight-minute mile.
My mother,
bedbound and humbled by failing health,
can only hope there's no falling between her "here" and
"there," neither of which will
ever again exist beyond her front door.
And I,
sweat-headed welted and worn,
chose the gorge,
and peaked.