Bristlecone in Blue

Jennifer Battisti
Bristlecone in Blue 
By Jennifer Battisti
Ascending takes effort.
My hamstrings protest; dizzy spells,
a cold sharp ache coiling in my ears,
my mind like an open door— all the flies let in, the bodies below, still
waiting on warm asphalt.
There seems no good reason to climb mountains anymore.
We left our grieving city, the sound of trauma still audible
beneath our heavy sips of air
switchback after switchback, then higher still the silence first like a murder then solvent.
My heart blooms suddenly—the delinquency of being alive.
We rest at Ponderosa, inhale
sun-baked butterscotch
from its bark, the sweetness, an infidelity.
The dead still stand here centuries later.
The canyon bursts open a boneyard of bristlecone in blue, the sky so certain—
gnarled trunks support branches, poised
petrified lightening, limbs
held up in terror
and surrender.
Wind-carved fissures filled with termite families burrow and devour history,
because the earth won’t waste one single thread. Quiet is a tender animal at our feet, a helix
of sorrow and prayer held in the den of its mouth.
There is nothing here to discover;
when we reach Raintree,
the oldest living thing in Nevada,
we are finally far enough away to be seduced by hope.
The 3,000 year old tree is neither boastful nor glum.
Beneath a heap of roots, thick as thighs, it forges soil, tangled by time into braided bark.
It forks turbulent winds through waxy needles, It asks us to unbutton our souls—
Carnage is compost here,
a harvest for those breathless and bruised.
at 10,000 feet, the air is too thin
to remember how we swore we couldn’t go on.
Jennifer Battisti, a Las Vegas native, studies creative writing at Nevada State College. Her work has been anthologized in Legs of Tumbleweed, Wings of Lace, Where We Live, an anthology of writing and art in response to the October 1st tragedy and is forthcoming in The Good Fight. Her worked has also appeared in The Desert Companion, Minerva Rising, The Citron Review, FLARE, Helen: A Literary magazine, The Red Rock Review, 300 Days of Summer, and she is a contributing writer for Las Vegas Woman magazine. She is the coordinator and a participating Teaching Artist for the Alzheimer’s Poetry Project in Clark County. In 2018, she was the recipient of the Helen Stewart Poetry Prize. Her first chapbook, Echo Bay was released in 2018.

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