robert pack poem

Confronting Clayfeld

Pausing for breath on a large fallen tree, 
Clayfeld must have been watching longer
than he realized, for now declining light
upon the snow-bedazzled mountaintop
reveals blue shades and purple shadows
down its crevices that guide his view
to where the thrusting tree line ends, 
the swaying tips of evergreens. 
     And Clayfeld wonders if his sense
of this illuminated mountain's vast
impersonality can free him now
from being only who he is. 
A measure of detachment from
his personal desires has broadened, 
he believes, his own capacity
to care for animals and friends, 
so that the very act of taking care
becomes for him its own reward. 
     How fortunate, he thinks, confronting his
deep longing to transcend himself, that he
is able to conceive of selflessness— 
a thought which seems to come from somewhere
far beyond his own volition or his will
and takes the form of serendipity. 
The very concept of a selfless self
is like a happening without a cause
which then inspires happiness, 
though Clayfeld knows that happiness
remains contingent and ephemeral. 
     Yet Clayfeld chooses still to focus
on the paradox that he feels most himself
when he regards his life as if he might
have read it in a book—a life about
a lover waiting by a waterfall, 
a credible alternative to what
he can remember of himself. 
     And, suddenly, out from the underbrush, 
a startled moose emerges with its antlers
gleaming in a splotch of sun, its spittle
sparkling in its beard, smelling of urine
to attract a mate; his presence is
so overwhelming that shocked Clayfeld, 
apprehending him, is shaken from his trance,
back to his solitary self. 
     He tastes his acid fear within his lungs
as its gigantic head, with flattened ears, 
sways back and forth, about to charge
and trample him into the silent ground. 
Clayfeld is flushed with the sensation of
his body's readiness to run or hide
behind a boulder or a hemlock tree
in caring for his one, his only life. 
     And yet in Clayfeld's overheated mind—
his mind reduced to his own dread— 
he knows he is preparing to relate
his threatening encounter
with a stamping, wide-eyed moose
to a trustworthy friend—someone, 
perhaps, who wonders why this story of
personal fear must mean so much to him.

- Robert Pack