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Why This Place
by John Willson

Conversation with a Young Day Hiker,
Above Marmot Pass, Olympic Mountains

Striding, he catches us on our duffs, exclaims
What a spot! He distracts us from gouda,
smoked trout, Snyder’s Riprap
and Cold Mountain Poems
. To say nothing
of lines that peaks and ridges
cut into lowering light, Mount Mystery’s
vertex acute enough to balance

a compass needle.
Twenty years—we astonish ourselves
replying to his question, How long
have you been camping here?
Could it be
twenty Julys, lugging a gallon bag the last
mile, a thousand feet up from the spring,
packs fused with our backs?
Twenty Julys of alpine lupine unfurled.

As the full moon silvers my stream
of piss, I think on his parting words:
I myself like to stay on the move.
In his wake you and I have the blank book
of two more days open,
this plateau’s altitude,

pearl jasmine tea.
The Big Dipper tilts toward the Strait.
I pull back the tent flap, crouch into the dark
promise of our lips, tongues
on the move across each other’s bodies,
even with stakes that bursitis
drives into knees and hips.


Published in Cider Press Review, Volume 22, Issue 2.

John WillsonJohn Willson, a Pushcart Prize recipient and a two-time finalist in the National Poetry Series, lives with his wife on Bainbridge Island, Washington, where he has been designated an Island Treasure for outstanding contributions to arts in the community. “Why This Place” appears in his first full-length collection, Call This Room a Station, (MoonPath Press, 2019).

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