hikers overdue at home

Finding the Broken Man

by Scott Cairns

When I found the fallen climber caught
halfway down the slope of stunted pines,
he was already dead two days, and his body
stank; he was loose and careless as a boy.
I gave my jacket up for lost, and wrapped him
as I could, then shouted loud, hoping others,
in my group were near enough that together
we could lift him out. It’s a common thing
near White Pass and, I suppose, any mountain town
to be called out in search of hikers
overdue at home. Having found one dead
is a sort of badge we wear, and one
I’d probably wear, if the others searching
had heard me call, of if I’d been
man enough to wait.

This is another cherished favorite passed along to me by someone else. Cairns speaks poignantly about failed kingship. He tells a hard story well, and suggests immediately from the title that his poem is also about another broken body abandoned on another tree.

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