Scattered Risks

for Max Uschuk


Climbing sandstone’s blonde shoulders

above the whitewater trance of the Animas,

my dog dances the irregular lip

where talus chips like millions of arrowheads

lacerating time into an avalanche of scattered risks.


Wind bullets my chest when Lu Lu leans

into my six year old nephew kicking

thin blue air as he dangles

his legs daring the slender edge.

I call him back before his daydreams drop

through the backs of ravens

charting the river’s hunger.


Why does vertigo sting me most

when others rock close to the brink, not

when it’s me whose loose footing

I’ve never quite believed could hold?


My stomach implodes to ulcers

while I pray for my husband craning out

to take wide angle aerial photos of Durango

and our house in the spinning valley

a thousand feet below.


While my family teases oblivion’s horizons, I imagine

the full range of terrorized flight

into screaming air,

legs acetylene, feet flailing, eyes

signing regret and hopelessness

before the fatal crash against rock,

rock, rock, the cold splash

if bodies broken by the thrashing current

that carves Gateway Park.


Tracing the crazy path my family blazes

scaling crumbling stone above a river that refuses to learn

the many human names for misfortune, I know

there is no way to save them.


Below the cliffs, kayaks bright as stained glass

or toy bumper cars bash against boulders

braced against whitewater’s appetite.

What do I have to lose, except the way

sunset frames those I love, holding their shapes?