But why start anything so close to the end?

by Ian Campbell

after Louise Gluck

We arrived close to the end
of cabin season, winter
nearing too,

white alder, stooped willow,
yellowed aspen leaving
their most hopeful selves

in high un-swept piles,
creek-side spillage. Beyond,
some spun as they rode riffles.

Indoors, on a knotted pine table
we arranged a hand-carved bowl
of late harvest apples and squash,

placed deep season chrysanthemum
on the mantel in a mason jar,
and in the fireplace made a tent

of dry pine logs which we poked
and stirred to awaken flame—
early and late.

Before dawn, our dented
fishing truck was already as iced as
the season ahead. I let it run

to warm as we sipped mugs of
fresh ground dark roast from
Costa Rica. She poured a long thread

of cream in hers, stirring it slowly
with a delicate silver spoon, as if
thinking of the farthest season.

Later, in the silence of the Sierra night,
clouds blotted all the stars
from the sky,

yet as we hiked back uphill
from the deep black pond—flecked
with tarnished leaves of aspen—

the steam from our being
commingled like clusters of
white stars forming in the cold

nebulae of passing warmth.
when I awakened
in the middle of the night

I could hear her breath.
Outdoors, a teething wind.
Firs creaked as if burdened

with lateness and, dozing a moment,
I dreamt the alpine flowers mere
shriveled stalks in the dark.

Beneath the hand-sewn quilt, I slipped
an arm around her, choosing to hear
nothing but the breathing we made.

Ian Campbell is Vice Chair of a crisis communications firm, worked for a big bank, a couple of governors, a daily newspaper. His work has been accepted by or published in Bayou Magazine, Burning Word, Albatross, California Poetry Quarterly, Caveat Lector, and more.

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