For the second ascent we were well prepared.
We had body bags and a guide who cared.
We had miles of rope and a hundred traps,
And the lairs were marked upon all the maps.
We had food for months and assorted knives,
With the edges dulled to appease the wives.
We had liquor and flints and a banshee kite
Which we swore we would only send up at night.
We made certain that none of the cots was shared.
Oh yes, for the second ascent we were well prepared.
For the second ascent we acquired a priest,
Who would treasure most what we prized the least.
And the veteran climbers at last confessed
That the previous foray had never been blessed.
He brought missals and hymnals in every tongue
And under his chasuble carried a gun.
He was pious and chaste and knew many a song,
With a temper short as his stride was long.
If worst came to worse he could sanction the feast.
Hell yes, for the second ascent we required a priest.
For the second ascent we set out at dawn
With a bleary eye and a stifled yawn.
On tiptoe crept through the stony waste,
Then ran through hills where the map said, “Haste.”
The lucky late risers were left behind;
While those who woke early we’d never find.
Our horses refused to be caravanned,
Having learned it was safer not even to stand.
While the night was yet frozen upon the lawn,
Still asleep, for the second ascent we set out at dawn.
For the second ascent we forgot the first,
With its howling nights and its storms of thirst.
We put every memory out of mind,
From the littlest loss to the goriest find.
The mountain wind had erased the tracks
Of our previous climb: the discarded packs,
The upset cairns with their charcoal runes,
The racks of ribs and the crusted spoons.
We stopped our ears to the winds that cursed.
Out of mind, for the second ascent we forgot the first.
For the second ascent there could be no end
Till we reached the top, when we might descend
(Or not, depending on what we found,
And how we felt then about level ground).
The summit’s existence remained unproved
Some felt in their hearts it continually moved.
Though the aerial photos were shown to be fake
Our conviction was boundless, but make no mistake,
It remains a decision we cannot defend.
Still and all, for the second ascent there could be no end.
For the second ascent it continues still,
And it seems rather rash to have left no will,
With the mist having hidden the earth from sight
And the stars above thicker by day than night,
My altimeter burst and my compass dead
And the cold in my bones leaching into my head,
Every camp falling short of the sites we’d drawn,
Every marker misplaced and then totally gone.
Could it be that our critics meant us no ill?
So it seems, for the second ascent it continues still.