Meditation on West Maroon Pass

10,432 feet

I reach the miner’s ruined cabin,
Each year more like a stack of weathered timber

Sinking from sight in the grass.
Around the bend, the scene: Alpine

Whiproot arcs from green, gentians spear
The sun, and, above me, the pass.

Here dwarf hawksbeard still lurks and sparks.
Lilies and bluebells burn, where willow

Gives way to tundra. The shifting shale marks
An edge from which I know the valley below.

A woman told me that, gazing on these same views,
Wildflowers cascading for miles, she had seen

Only black. I thought she had hoped to amuse,
But it wasn’t a joke at all. I thought, she’s insane,

She has to be. How could she have seen that?
But she went on and on, tugged my sleeve,

Insisting that I understand her, that what
She said was true, that I must believe.

Today I see again the colors below,
And feel the cold above, and observe:

Was it her mind, or just her eyes, the flow
Of light on retina and optic nerve?

Can I accept she saw the world the way
She’d said she did, and trust what she must bear,

That what she’d said was true, and that a ray
Of sun could grant her sights I could not share?

The flowers move like lakes in mountain wind,
Silvery lupine, baneberry, horsemint.

At my back, the climb remains, the air thinned,
Land starved of life, keen shards, the stark ascent.

Ernest Hilbert is the author of Sixty Sonnets, All of You on the Good Earth, Caligulan—selected as winner of the 2017 Poets’ Prize—and Last One Out. His fifth book, Storm Swimmer, was selected by Rowan Ricardo Phillips as the winner of the 2022 Vassar Miller Prize. Visit him at

'Meditation on West Maroon Pass' has 1 comment

  1. June 9, 2023 @ 1:05 pm Cynthia Erlandson

    There are some especially beautiful descriptive lines and phrases here: “Each year more like a stack of weathered timber”; “The flowers move like lakes in mountain wind”. I also really enjoyed the interesting slant rhymes: willow/below; horsemint/ascent. I almost didn’t notice the lovely rhyme scheme, though, because the first few lines seemed to be left out of it (unless cabin and Alpine were another slant rhyme?) Overall, a wonderful poem that conveys a thoughtful mood.


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