Mountain Dharma – a poem by Kali Lightfoot

Mountain Dharma

Misery is a given, it’s everything else you came for.
Anne Dellenbaugh, owner/leader of Her Wild Song: Wilderness Journeys for Women

Steep ascent in the first half-mile, before beginners
feel good in their boots, inured to packs. Then the rain
starts. The trail a sudden creek, rocks cased in mud, clay

like sheet ice, weight of the pack a force in wrong directions.
It occurs to me that I carry my pack an hour longer than you
there at the head of the line. Not complaining, mind you,

I like walking sweep, nobody behind to step on my heels.
I stop and look at bits of the world you never see, rocketing along
at the front: a fine mushroom, tiny purple flower, two trees

grown together, or shiny shards of rock—arrowheads perhaps.
Co-leaders we are, but at the back I plod slower than my legs
would like, cheering the walking wounded, becoming expert

on foot care, blister treatment. Our hike explores the dharma
of mountains, and ourselves: intrinsic nature, essential quality,
character. Forty miles to the top of Mt. Katahdin,

you and I as much seekers as the women we shepherd.
We stragglers make camp in the dark, wet is our intrinsic nature,
squirming nylon tent ropes, stakes loose in rain-soaked loam.

# # # # # # #

Blue morning sky struggles from behind thin clouds
as we, damp in our bones, crawl into the sun, walk sleepily
out of drippy woods to our kitchen on a granite ledge

beside a little tear drop pond, trees around us hung with last
leaves of autumn—a surprise we couldn’t see last night,
perfect for our first morning meditation on dharma.

It takes a moment for our eyes to find the moose standing
shoulder deep in the pond, basking in sun, oblivious to us.
She ducks her head, snorts, waggles a bit, splashes water

flashing with rainbows as light shines through droplets flurrying
around her. We stand silent while she grazes idly on floating
pondweed, splashes again, unconcerned with the statues

we have become. Finally she turns to shore, wades through weeds
to scrubby woods, shakes herself and strolls on knobby legs
into the shrubbery, heading off to perform her essential daily acts.


Kali Lightfoot‘s poems and reviews of poetry have appeared in journals and anthologies, and been nominated twice for Pushcart, and once for Best of the Net. Her debut collection is forthcoming from CavanKerry Press in 2021. Kali earned an MFA at Vermont College of Fine Arts, find her at



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