Big Bend
Beauty and the Beast
Mystery Clown
A Summer Memory
When Did the Killing Begin?
My Little Cabin
Robert Service

More poems:


Sand Castles

The Cold


Campfire Messages


The Raven Dance


Chasing Alpenglow

Bold Peak


A poet I know once said

that winter is a book,

its pages are the endless snows,

and inside those pages are tracks,

tracks that are the stories.

In my wanderings

I have found these stories

written in the snow:

dramas about struggle,


life and death.

I once came upon

the small tracks of a rodent,

perhaps a squirrel,

that stopped abruptly

in the middle of a clearing;

and at that spot in the snow

on each side of the tracks,

were the clear indentations of wings

from a large bird

that had swooped down

to grab its prey.

I once walked into a clearing

that was beaten down

with moose and wolf tracks,

large chunks of moose hair scattered about,

but there was no blood,

so I think the moose

survived the battle…

a battle in the snow

recorded as clearly

as if it had been written

in a journal…

and in my winter journeys

about the land

I have also left stories

to fill the pages

of the Book of Winter.

Sand Castles

Even the rocks which seem to be dumb and dead as they swelter in the sun along the silent shore, thrill with memories of stirring events connected with my people.

– Chief Seattle

Survivors of the storm,

my children’s sand castles

guard the lake shore

against age-old enemies:

fear, uncertainty, malaise.

A day ago the air sang

with their voices…

voices of sand shapers,

dream scapers,

voices of builders,

sculptors who slowed time

for one whose






Absent their creators,

the fortresses repose

quietly in the sun,

defying all dangers,

alive for today,

tomorrow’s storms;

constructions held together

by grains of memory.

The Cold

The cold waits

outside layers

of long underwear,

wind pants,

two sleeping bags,

tent walls.

It waits to make me

a feature of the land,

to harden me

like river ice.

I burrow deeper

into claustrophobia,

stale breath,

listening to a heart pumping life,

breathing and listening

through the 16-hour night,

defying the harbinger

that waits

to steal my breath,

still the heart,

stop the flowing

in my veins.

I fade into tomorrow’s light

and force myself

into another day

of cold that crushes

like an eagle’s talons,

forges flesh

into crystal,

unravels thought.

I huddle by the fire,

break camp,

warm by the fire,

rig the sled,

warm again,


warm again,

ski away.

It is on the trail,

between the trees,

beneath the frozen river,

all around,



Part of it slides down my back

as I ski out of the valley.

It doesn’t want to let me go.

I cannot let it see me shiver.

Trail’s End

Dave J. Gahm – July 27, 1957–Sept. 21, 2008

These trails we’ve walked

and mountains we’ve climbed

haunt me

now that you are gone.

I could not imagine

venturing to these places

without you at my side…

…dozens of campfires,

long conversations

morning ‘til night;

jokes about some guy

headed into a sheep hunt

wearing tennis shoes;

the determined look in your eye

when scanning ahead

for a better route,

the way you relaxed

on a grassy mountain slope,

having some lunch,

eyes fixed on other horizons.

Often when we reached

our destinations—

a remote, alpine lake,

a grassy green tarn,

a rocky summit,

I had the feeling

you were already there,

waiting for me.

You are no longer here,

but in my mind

you will remain with me

on every trip I make,

for the rest of my days.

Campfire Messages

A camp fire

flickers softly

like moth wings

across miles of lonely,

snow-silenced night,

asking questions.

Who are the fire makers?

Are they huddled

around their warm creation,

peering with blinded eyes

into the darkness,

wondering what

they can’t see?

Or are they asleep

in another world

as firelight shadows frolic

on tent walls?

From their distant shore

can they see my fire?

Are they reading its messages?

Things can go wrong

on the trail

and the weather

can turn bad,

but a camp with a fire,

its smoke hanging

in the trees,

clinging like us

to what it remembers,

says everything

is all right.


We can’t hear

trees growing,

the footfalls of sparrows,

owls diving

on unsuspecting mice,

dandelion and fireweed seeds

parachuting into fields,

spruce needles

rolling across the ground,

snowflakes colliding

on their freefall to earth,

clouds ramming into

mountain tops,

meteors blazing

across the night sky…

…but something wants us

to listen.

“Sailors on a becalmed sea, we sense a stirring of a breeze.”

-Carl Sagan

The Raven Dance

From mountain tops

in late afternoon

I’ve watched them wheel and soar,

riding the ridge thermals

on their way to secret nests

deep in the valleys,

troupes of avian dancers

in an aerial ballet,

winging mirthful pirouettes

across a stage

of silent blue,

teasing hawks and eagles

with deft maneuvers,

banking, diving

like untethered kites.

I cannot fly

like the ravens,

so I climb high

and wait for them,

and when they spiral past

my heart beats the rhythm

of their wings,

my earthly bond is broken,

my spirit sings.


The land’s face changes

in half-century spans,

green invading the rocky moraine

left by melting glaciers.

During America’s Great Depression,

World War II,

atomic explosions over

Hiroshima and Nagasaki,

Korea and Vietnam wars,

the conquest of Everest,

first man on the moon,


this lake has remained

much the same…

in summer

bordered by grassy slopes,

glacier-carved mountains,

and for a few weeks every year,

a few flowers to sweeten the air;

in winter,

a flat, smooth space

within an endless expanse

of snowy whiteness.

If somehow, one by one,

every person on earth

could sit by this lake

for a few silent moments,

as I sit here now,

would we begin to move

toward world peace?

Chasing Alpenglow

On the winter solstice

we stretch toward the light,

shuffling up the mountainside

through sand-dry snow

in a race to catch the mid-day sun.

In these northern latitudes,

the sun suspended

a few degrees above the horizon,

our pace is not quick enough

for the earth’s turning;

as alpenglow retreats upward

like a frightened animal,

beyond our reach.

In our younger days

we would have thought it folly

to spend an afternoon

pursuing the sun;

but on this cold December day,

it felt like the best way

to warm the heart

and chase away

the weariness

of a winter mind.

Bold Peak

I climb to that granite loft

gulping thin rock air,

air rushing everywhere,

glacier to glacier,

valley to valley;

playing like an errant child

on a fenceless playground.

Scented updrafts ebb and flow,

eddying between cliffs and gullies;

fledgling winds collide with rocks

of another millennium,

freeing themselves

on their upward dash.

But here, at the summit,

losing ramp,

the winds tug my sleeve

before sighing into space,

joining the higher, voiceless winds

that shove clouds to unknown destinations,

winds that have nothing more on earth

to touch.


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