We sweat through our backpacks,

Tripping over unstable river stones

we search for the bright plastic ribbons that flutter

guiding us up

this fucking mountain.

Higher —

Scrambling up the steep cliff,

my nails deep in the dirt.

We start with laughter,

twenty questions — Who am I?

Three hours in, everyone ahead

Above, I cannot see them.

Who am I?

Panic pounds in my ears,

a child lost in a supermarket filled with deep green

and the smell of pine needles.

There are patches of snow.

I will go hungry.

What will I do when night comes?

They call to me and I almost sob with relief.

Thirty seconds. Only a few moments.

So afraid to be alone, even in this great stillness.

Angry to be so grateful.

We are tired as we reach the campground.

The lake is frozen and snow is everywhere.

In my boots, my toes are numb.

We break into the cabin and dry wood,

at least we will be warm tonight.

Steam rises from my socks above the stove and I

can’t shake the memory of a story I once read,

The boy and his father walking in the snow

A yellow moon and an owl.

We don’t see any bears

but out on the ice is a broken log

— its bear shaped if you squint.

I dream of walking alone in dark widening circles

hooting forlornly.