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Devil’s Pass

By Emily Mailman


The trail where the sun always shines
Down south the Seward Highway
A rain cloud follows around
Tucked in a valley
A slow steady climb
“Moderate” they say
5 – 6 hours

Does that include time spent crossing late summer snow?
Perhaps it is the Devil that keeps us warm
The mosquitos find haven sitting among us
Few campsites lie in the trees
Pitched on a no-fall zone
The trail lays empty amongst the lack of night
A swamp sucked dry by two months of summer
Birthed a camp and jelly torts
A trap for flies – a sweet revenge
Late nights turn to broken hearts and life lessons of outliving lovers
Leading to molasses mornings
Yellow walls let sun and moon mix
Baking in the midnight sun
Snores signal life as morning routines challenge a rare day off
Up, one at a time
No need to rush on the trail where the sun always shines
A bear-can left wide open
Like a can of worms – waiting to tip
Footprints squished in sphagnum moss
Spruce and birch bicker down low
Fighting for light while flowers frolic
Laughing above with the naked tundra
Fireweed counting the weeks left of summer
Daisies dancing
Hoots and hollers with no response
Tumbling down
Rolling with giggles
Tuna in pouches fuel our souls
As heads dip deep in glacial ponds
Suits left in duffels
A bath from ancient ice
The trail acquired as commuters wander
Bodies in the fishbowl
Tourists peer over
Peaking at free souls with an upside-down map for a towel
Wishing to bottle this laughter and freedom
To market it as an ice cream flavor
Dripping in summer
Melting in love
The blistered sun preserves our lust for a forever summer
Bug bites tattoo our shoulders
Art – acquired
Time served to the earth
Relationships forged as paths carve deep
Up a slow grade we hardly notice
Single track; split by feet and tires
With remnants of winters’ slides
A viewfinder peering to the valley
Creek crossings tunneling the way
The number of sandwiches that have sprinkled crumbles beneath your feet
Hansel channels to the pass
A fairytale creek
Bikes tumble while gears click and brakes squeak
Flats welcome a breathing break
Yet, the bugs here to feast
One old timer brings anew
The big city, blended with a town lacking lights
Wisdom passed down while naive dreams brew
A pilot and a scientist question where the cookies went
Wasabi pistachios line our throats as we scream at the sun
The longest day hisses on our cheeks
Noses red taunting winter
A pass where old meets new and helmets tip
From summers past the trail threads through

Connecting memories that lay strewed
A new hello from years goodbyes
Soft knolls – seats for snacks
Propped up in a church
A synagogue for the sourdough
Down – just as fast as we could go
Stay too long and the Devil will fester
Dreams of going rogue will fill your pack
Careers moldered over by pushki and sweat
Yet on the trail where the sun always shines
We take a break
Retire our titles that make us Dr., or Cptn’, or Mrs., or Mr.
Put down our paddles
And our barista smiles
Squash the small talk
And leave decisions unmade

Like beds back in town
Up on the trail where the sun always shines
The only threat – our time, or lack thereof.

-Emily Mailman

Emily Mailman is a marine biologist who came up for a summer job and never quite left. She thinks the world needs more laughter and more time spent looking at trees. She hopes to one day open a bakery.