The Circle

Like the ice off the earth
In spring,
Like a lie in the presence
Of truth,
Like dry ink off an old
Manuscript
I can feel melting off me
My face,
/
And my heart I can sense
Reabsorb,
Every wrinkle and tear,
Every smile,
With whose help it would
Speak to the world,
And who’d pass to it
The world’s reply
/
As I watch my hands wither
Like leaves,
That I’d gather in bouquets
Each fall,
I recall what a joy it once was
To hold
Rock and snow, and the sunset glow
Over the ocean
/
As if sculpted from
Alien ash,
My legs, too, crumble
With the wall of time,
And the winter wind
Carries away
All that’s always been his –
Never mine

As I Recall

As I recall you,
You are so much better
Than the stranger,
Who stands before me now;
/
Your eyes are clearer,
Unclouded with regret, and
You smile so wide, so often;
Now – small and sometimes;
/
You are much younger,
Braver in your gait and speech, while
Today your sight chases the short
And cautious steps you make hesitantly
/
Tell me, who stole the face,
Which I was unashamed of?
Who broke the heart of steel,
Which never failed?
/
Who put you in the black clothes
You are wearing?
Who forced you to adopt the skin,
That shows no signs of living?
/
As I recall you,
You are so much better,
Than to be told or ordered
Anything;
/
I stare and stare,
And hardly recognize you,
The woman in the mirror,
Looking back quietly
/
As I recall me,
I am so much better
Than her, who moves her lips
Yet, says nothing

I Promise, Part II

Have you returned

Ever

Or is this shell before me

But an empty

Vessel,

Which waves of time

Have carried to the shore?

/

In the storms

You’ve weathered

Have you been able to preserve

From certain

Drowning

Your heart – your precious gift,

Your heavy burden?

/

Sleeping with Death

Nightly

I fear you may have found

In her calm eyes

The peace and quiet, which

Unlike me,

Would never let you go?

/

Can you even

Hear me,

Standing before me as you are:

Callously smiling

At questions, which to you

Must sound

Pathetic and naïve?

/

I listen,

I listen…

And only wish I had for you

A soothing answer:

Can’t say the words

You wait and want

From me:

/

I have returned,

Truly,

As much of me, that is,

As there remains,

But, surely, much it is not

And none of it

Is good

/

No ropes, no anchors,

No sails

And no one at the helm

To steer it,

That’s me, the vessel, which at last

Has found this beautiful,

Long-dreamed-of port

/

The vessel’s vaults

Are all empty;

Not even rats now lurk across

Its rotten insides,

Where no one enters, 

Save for winds

And ghosts

/

Its cannons

Are quiet

But painful to behold,

Like memories,

Too wild and full-blooded

To ever loose themselves

Amongst the rest

/

Forgive me for coming

Back:

I only did because

When I had left you, I promised

I would return,

And you promised 

To wait

/

Yes,

I remember:

‘I promise to return,’ you said,

And I replied that

I would wait for you forever;

The words, the love, the hope

The good intentions…

/

All – wet gunpowder in the stores

Of life;

Small rescue rafts, too light

For real seas;

I prayed for you – you know? – through every day,

Shuddered in fear – you hear? – through every night

While I’ve been waiting –

Yes, I am waiting still

***

The original ‘I Promise’ is here: https://sixthsymph.com/2012/06/27/i-promise/

Everest 2013: Requiem For a Dream

P1020180
The Everest Memorial

A cloud has caught on her steep summit pyramid, and streams downwards; the black frozen rock of the ridges peeks through its airy whiteness. I stop in the middle of the path on the moraine leading to Everest Base Camp, and take a picture of my stone idol, Chomolungma. Somewhere up there, where the summit pierces the cloud, as if cutting through a dream, beats my heart: I always say that I left it up there – so no one could have it, not even I. I put the camera away, and carry on to EBC at the foot of the notorious Khumbu Icefall, which has already swallowed one life this climbing season. As it shows off its enormous teeth of ice to the morning sun, I pray for the Sherpa ‘Icefall Doctor’, who died in a crevasse just two days earlier.

Khumbu Icefall on the way to Everest Base Camp
Khumbu Icefall on the way to Everest Base Camp

‘Are you afraid?’ I ask myself. No. I am worse than afraid – I am indifferent to the task, which lies ahead of me and to the outcome of the expedition. This feeling – indifference – has been with me ever since I landed in Kathmandu after my stay in Bangkok. I carried it on my shoulders all the way up to 5300 meters; I slept with it; I fed it; I hoped to appease it, so, satisfied, it would leave me and give room to the passion and love I used to always feel for the Himalaya. Yet, my indifference only grows bigger and fatter as I approach the foot of Everest. After trekking for 6 days, ill, I kneel beside my backpack in my tent at the foot of the Icefall and Everest, – home to be for the next month-and-a-half – and like a ghost of somebody long-gone, indifference kneels by my side and wonders: ‘If this is truly your dream still, to climb Everest for the second time, then, why am I here? And if it isn’t your dream, then, why are you here?’ These are good questions, even put to one belatedly, and they must be answered before it is too late.

The answer to the first question surprises and devastates me. Mountains were her dreams, and Chomolungma – the grandest, most sacred of them. She is gone now, she, in whose skin I live. I think, what she learnt about herself and others after Pumori made her want to go: made her want to do a solo on Cholatse in winter – a suicide mission; made her want to be punched, and kicked, and humiliated to no end until she would finally stop dreaming. Her last dream came true – she disappeared, and nowhere within me can I feel her presence. It seems that her dreams vanished with her.

Everest and Ama Dablam from Tengboche
Everest and Ama Dablam from Tengboche

The answer to the second question is that some things must be seen and touched to make one believe they are possible, real and irreversible. I had to see and touch Everest to believe I didn’t want to climb on The Mountain again. I would trek to Everest Base Camp through the land I used to love, looking at the skyline and the ‘friends’ of my past, the harsh and stunning Himalayan peaks, following trails, on one of which, one day in 2009, I remember feeling spotlessly, perfectly happy for a few minutes. Yet, no matter how hard I would try to feel what the ‘I’ from just a few months back doubtless would be feeling, I couldn’t see anything but blurry images from the past: they were overflowing with love, curiosity, ambition, passion, hope, pain – her everything. What they lacked now was life: they were but beautiful pictures to be hung on the wall and admired, but one could not live in a frame.

When I stood at the foot of Chomolungma this season, I realized that climbing on Her slopes would be like trying to stage a scene from last year’s summit photo and improve on it to make the perfect picture. ‘Move slightly to the right, don’t forget to cry with emotion; hide that oxygen mask…’ What would such a picture be a picture of, if not one’s own greed and vanity? Not even she, who couldn’t stop dreaming of Chomolungma, would want such a photo on her wall, let alone I. Although I do not share her dreams, I respect them as a memory of someone, who was superior to me in a million ways. I could have climbed – if anything, I am stronger and more experienced now than I was last season – but what good is any of this, if the Dream and the Dreamer have both been lost?

I spend two nights without sleep at Everest Base Camp, watching condensation form on the thin walls of my tent and listening to the rumble of avalanches and the creaking of ice all around base camp. In the dark and the cold I try to reason with myself: ‘You are already here. Just… do it! Think of all the people, who are supporting you in this, who call you inspirational, to whom what you do means something – even if it no longer means what it used to mean to you! Climb for them!’ But I can’t – I can’t inspire what I don’t truly and honestly feel myself.

Our EBC and the Khumbu Icefall
Our EBC and the Khumbu Icefall

The morning I make the final decision to abort my expedition, I go towards the gaping mouth of the Khumbu Icefall. It is still very early and cold, and I am the only one outside. I walk as far as I can from the sleeping base camp to get as close as I dare to Chomolungma. I can’t see Her, but I feel that She is there. I talk to the stone Goddess in a whisper, and, before turning away, throw something into the Icefall’s white mouth – something she, the Dreamer, treasured. ‘Good-bye,’ I say to the Dream, and to her, who had dreamt the Dream so well and fulfilled it, and to my heart, which remains where she left it, ‘good-bye!’ Simultaneously, an enormous serac collapses onto the Khumbu Glacier from the slopes of Nuptse. ‘Good-bye,’ thunders Chomolungma in reply. Then, I know I am free to leave.

Leaving Khumbu
Leaving Khumbu

A helicopter picks me and a couple more people up at base camp and ferries us to Lukla. From there we fly to Kathmandu next morning. I will rest here for a few days before starting to pack again and leaving Nepal to travel elsewhere. As you may have guessed, I will be taking an indefinite break from mountaineering.

Thank you for dreaming with me, for believing what I believed in and for supporting me! I will continue to blog, and, I think, I already know what I will be writing about. Drop by if you’d like to join me on a different kind of adventure!

Love,

Mila

Where Do You Want Me To Take You?

Where do you want me
To take you,
You, whom I’d been
For so long;
/
You, whom I killed
Without thinking?
You felt so fragile,
And small…
/
Where do you wish me
To bury
All things you cherished
And loved?
/
Where should I
Secretly carry
Your ashes, still thickening,
Clouding my blood?
/
You were courageous
And gentle,
While I am ruthless
And vain;
/
Of us two, you were the truth
And the wisdom –
I merely feed off
Of your name;
/
Where would you choose me
To dig you
The deepest and coldest
Of graves?
/
Make it a place even I
Won’t remember;
Make it so that I forget
You are me