His first day as medic on patrol, nineteen, Uncle took his best

friend down the slope near Gunnison with a ski-tip through


his skull, already dead  New nursing major at an ag school  Later,

a twelve-year-old from Texas, jean-clad, crashed into the trees


in front of me, thirteen  He didn’t pass till chili mac

and the silence and noise of mittens piled over mittens  After


I left town, Uncle warned I’d come back mountainside

from the coast a mail-order cowboy  I’ve been offish and he’s been


offish, but it’d be nice to circle toward home, to learn bronc breaking

in the Stetson Grandpa died with  His black box


of poker chips in the closet, I could bet on us all  Red white blue white

green  The year my friend portaged high schoolers all over


Oregon, she was twenty  Had to heli out a girl whose epilepsy

medication got wet, even in a dry bag  We called them


participants  I called the French girl, twenty, who tried

to hide mango lotion for the backcountry in a bivy sack


participant to separate her from me, twenty  From the QuickClot

and gauze I packed and the way I taped the skin flaps


on her blisters to her moleskinned feet  No one likes to hear

Do what you’re told on the backside of a crag they paid


good money for  I lost a San Jose girl in a snowstorm in Utah

for almost four hours  When I got her back to camp, she


stutter-shrieked nonsense while I stripped her and yelled at her

and rubbed her whole body and checked her fingers and toes,


fingers and toes, into the night  My friend and I talk risk,

the ways we might’ve died, or someone else might’ve


died  The times we all, guides, took our four-wheel drives

out to the coordinates tattooed on everyone’s ass to black out


on the dunes  A boys’ world out here  Where you drink

down citrus Smirnoff when you find it hidden


in your zero-degree bag by someone heavier than you

are  Where I’m first told my application was labeled hot one,


and that’s why I get to guide  The game where, after the Fireball’s

gone and everybody’s been iced, we take off in the dark in every


direction  The waking up as solo bodies in sand, half miles between

each  My friend shakes her head over eighteen-year-olds she led


across flooded streams, waist-high  Mud-bogged bottoms resisted

the tread of boots  We hung bear bags at night from ropes


that never got dry  Browned, burned on each end  We said

yes  Unclipped  We threaded packs over torrent  I was making beans


when the San Jose girl’d said I’m gonna go  I heard her  I thought

A joke  A blizzard playing the pines like empty bottles, the dark


of desert March dark  From the video of my wilderness first

responder exam, the one place I got points docked was where I yelled


in my friend’s hypothermic face, makeup-bloodied, You’re not gonna die,

while ice rain slicked numb skin slippery  Never promise


anything, girl  The year Mom set me on a candle

and my dress caught fire, it was Uncle who threw me down in the


snow  A lesson in decisiveness  That last year,

I was at the other end of the radio the trip a participant stumbled


from a summit  Called in rangers  Waited to call parents  The oars

of Uncle’s canoe, hand-lathed, scoop water better


than fiberglass, he says  There were guides who decided drunk

to take Cactus to the Clouds the night before  Drove


through Los Angeles dusk to crash, dicks waving, in the Sonoran Desert

before climbing over 10,000 feet to San Jacinto Peak  Uncle’s ankle


might not break in the same places mine does when stepped on

by a horse back home  But purple is purple  Maybe is as big as maybe