Footprints might have led you up,
pushing through scrub of ridge and slope,
to the sky’s edge at the land’s top;
but rains have melted them at this date,
so, grey pilgrim, you have come too late.
Footprints, no; but footsteps, yes,
one may follow by thought or guess
or heard of, known of, evidences:
maps and relics that the place avails,
lay of the country and the locals’ tales.
True, man, true! yet should you climb
out of your stretch of space and time
to the hill’s crest at the sky’s rim,
those before you have left no track
through years and timber. You had best turn back.
Turn I shall, as they too turned —
to quest renewed from respite earned,
with scraps of wisdom or light discerned
still to struggle for and always just
behind some barrier. So climb I must.
Pilgrim, when you reach the crown
of that girdling range no scene grades down
to spread pasture or far town;
at your world’s brink just nothings meet
jagged precipice of thousands of feet.
Brink maybe; but depths of air
are other than vacant silence there
of the world’s end and the world’s despair.
Here, to me climbing, seabirds’ calls
float past frontiers of coastline walls.
Wings knife sky and tilt and merge
high over cliff-blocked suck of surge
yet are but flicker below that verge
where, from a neither start nor end,
vision reaches for beyond beyond.
Pilgrim, where will you turn? — As taught
by a stone dropped … or a leaf caught
out of some wind that blows through thought
and earth-elements from those I trace
just ahead of me a life-length pace.