Nobody rides the Mountain top when Winter’s locked her jaws.

The Mountain bears the brunt alone, his shoulders to the claws.

She carves great gashes down his flank like butchers flensing sheep

And howl, you cannot know the word. She never lets him sleep

And on his peak she wreaks her wrath. He reaches Heaven-bound

But she has placed a crown of ice and turned Hell upside down.

My parka hood is fringed with frost. It’s hard to get my wind.

I stand hard on the timberline feeling freshly skinned.

The sweat is drippin’ down my neck. It’s just twenty-two below.

I came to tell the Mountain top, “Just three more months to go.”

“You’re not alone,” I shouted to him, “There’s others just like you

Who make their stand upon the Earth and see the battle through

The daily grind to just get by against all Earthly odds

And keep the faith though they might feel forsaken by the gods.”

My words are snatched up by the wind and shatter in the air.

The Winter scatters spoken broken pieces everywhere.

I strain to see the highest ridge that climbs the steep terrain

That’s whipped until its frothy edge is like a horse’s mane.

Then disappears into the storm, the maelstrom, the shriek,

That smothers and obliterates the nearly hidden peak.

The Winter bellows out her rage. She’s comin’ down the face.

I turn downhill and cower in the timber’s tall embrace.

Her blizzard fingers flow around the trees and follow me.

I stop and squint back toward the top but white-out’s all I see.

I meant to bring some small relief. I wanted just to say

No man or mountain stands alone. We’re all the Maker’s clay.

“But I can only cringe and squeak,” I whispered up the slope

But then the Mountain answered back, “Go, friend. You left me hope.”

Baxter Black is a cowboy poet, former large animal veterinarian and entertainer of the agricultural masses. As he puts it, “he has a narrow following, but it’s deep!” He resides in Benson, Arizona. Additional information about him can be found at baxterblack.com.