The Summit of Corn Du


By John Walser

All consonants and gorse
across St. George’s Channel
across the Irish Sea:

this storm comes in
grey tumble roil
crag splinter rain:

I didn’t know
I’d find
when I stopped:

staging area parking lot:
the second highest peak
in all of Wales.

I followed
camouflage on a mission
cadets:

trundled on
keeping pace:

their rucksacks
balancing my age.

I just wanted
a small oxygen debt
climb:

the hand grip cairn shift
the tiny avalanche steps
the final twenty yards:

just wanted
summit pellet mist.

I didn’t know
109 years ago:
August 1900:
five year old coalminer’s son
Tommy Jones
near Cwn Llwch Farmhouse
lost his way:

Brecon: Pen y Fan:

and after 29 searching days
snowhill, tumulus

the rescuers found him
here where I stand

dead of exhaustion
dead of exposure.

Glawio, oer
gymylogwyntog:
an incantation
of squall and blast.

Now I can’t tell
with any certainty
what is cloud
what is my shallow
steam breathing

what is cold front
what is salt wind:

what is a flock
of shearwaters
bluff face updraft
rain slope soaring

what is the faded
plastic flowers
school children
and sad mothers
grey sky climbers
have monument left
here.

Before I head
back down
I want to know

how a boy
could climb
this high:

I want to know
what is shivering
what is sloughing


John Walser, a professor at Marian University, holds a doctorate in English from UW-Milwaukee. His poems have appeared or will be appearing in numerous journals, including Barrow Street, NimrodFourth RiverQuiddityThe Pinch and december magazine. A 2013 Neruda Prize semifinalist, John is currently submitting three manuscripts of poems.

Photo credit: Julie Pallowick Photography

Photo credit: Julie Pallowick Photography