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December 2008, vol 4 no 4

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Patrick M. Pilarski

 

A Lesson on Glaciers

The sun is out for the first time all day. Long shadows finger down from high ridge-lines to the smooth, flat belly of the alpine valley. A snowfield scraped clean. Digested. Boots cracking the crust of snow, we hike to the only landmark in sight—a solitary cluster of boulders. Sitting beside one of the ice-gouged stones, we take out a thermos of tea. Steam curls from our cups, lingers for a moment in crisp air, passes over the boulders and is gone. High in a cleft at the head of the valley, the glacier's tail glints white and thin in the sunlight.

hanging valley—
our voices
vanish in sky

The mountains are never far away. In our prairie apartment, the albino corn snake circles inside its terrarium, bent on the smell of a newly-thawed mouse. One quick movement, the flash of a scaled head, and narrow fangs sink into the mouse.

The snake inches forward; feet slide into its distended mouth, past armoured lips. It yawns and the mouse tail vanishes down its throat with the crack of jaw-bones settling into place. Coil upon coil, the snake crawls around the mountain in its belly. Flicks a forked tongue. Out. In. Curls under a stone to digest its meal. Glacial movements. Slow ripples grind and smooth; erase the sharp outlines of the mouse.

heavy silence
between the rocks
a pile of tiny bones

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