Dead Horse Trail
The Alaskan Klondike, 1898
One ton of goods per person:
supplies to start a life
hauled by hand, sled or horses,
fifteen hundred steps in glacial ice,
a slow stampede of pick-ax and sewing machine.
Three thousand horses dead along the way,
small price to pay for gold and good luck.
Whipped by ice, snow, and stick
through slush and stink
of mud, man and beast,
they did not rest for winter,
did not pause as glaciers do;
their bones splayed in rocky passes
white wings – the bowl of the rib cage
overturned in the snow.
Some walked to the ledge,
stepped slowly over
hooves cleaving air for an instant
dark against snow,
then striking rock:
the accordion of bone
breaking in small syllables.
First appeared in Spillway.