To a Man Who Fell Climbing


On October 4, 1997, a Canadian hiker had a fatal heart attack on his way to the “forehead” of Mount Mansfield, Vermont.


Down across the border at week’s end

To Underhill in Autumn he journeyed to ascend

Up through the full-throated swan song of the fiery maple leaves

A free day to work, rest, rise, fall, suffer, and be relieved. 

Panting up the rocky, root-riddled road

Toward the mountain’s brow high and proud and stone cold,

He sweated, he struggled, and he smiled,

The man’s day like the lunch recess of the child.

But partway there it seemed the colors started blurring. 

Pain, not all displeasing, a drifting, a lost mooring.

A coming and going. More pain. More drifting. Allaway . . .

And to other climbers the clouds obscured the day

For a time. Until the laughing careful workers

Brought him down and up once more across the border. 


Written October 13, 1997