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January 2014, vol 9, no 4

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Steven Carter


Here’s to the cliff-face that launched a thousand leaky rowboats.

Here’s to Spirit Mountain, five miles north of here as the crow flies.

Spirit’s beautiful cliffs have claimed more than one life. As for Helen of Troy—she was too busy checking herself out in the mirror to care about the cliffs—the walls—of windy Troy.

—My girlfriend Rosy-Fingered Dawn bails water over the side, and we row toward Swan Lake’s western shore.

For some reason I think of Meriwether Lewis, and how that great, troubled man felt about the Missouri River Breaks:

I did not think that such scenes of visionary enchantment would ever have an end.

(He actually wrote “and,” atrocious spelling being one of Lewis and Clark’s more charming attributes. Clark spelled Sioux 26 different ways and never got it right.)

(As for Lewis, part of his problem was women: tall, handsome, dashing, with a bright future now that he’d helped to “conquer a continent,” he always struck out with the ladies. No one knows why).

Cruel and unforgiving (to me), the blue shadow of an eagle—or is it an osprey?—fires a warning shot across our bow. I ship the oars.

Why? Out of respect, I suppose.

The cliff-faces of Spirit Mountain loom larger as, in syncopation, my thoughts turn inward:

For both the Trojans and the Greeks—men changed into stones by the ten-year war, even the ones who survived—Helen wasn’t worth a bit of it.

Right on cue, Rosy turns her lover’s gaze to the mountain. She looks excited.

“Steven, let’s you and I go climb that bad boy—“

—Sing in me, Muse, the wrath of Aphrodite