Nicholas Friedman


We squeeze between erratics fuzzed
with moss to a stand of Krummholz firs,
deranged, wind-sculpted, then step from the trail
while he bends for breath. After a silence,
he turns to face me. Finally, I think,
he’ll use the word that we all fear,
the one that names his mutinous blood.
Instead, he explains how “ampersand”
was once the 27th letter,
before it became the namesake of
the mountain on which we’ve stopped to rest
so near the peak. “And per se and,
which really means and, by itself,”
he says, as if this just occurred
to him. And then, “Okay.” Our poles
tick-tock the granite as we climb
to the scrubless dome. From there, we see
a ferrous stain of maples below;
the small town where we’ll spend the night;
loose clots of hikers making their way;
and everything we’ve traveled for
receding, already, to a symbol.