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Surviving the Sierras: poem by Michael Shoemaker

Photo: mountain of grey shale rock, with foreground of blooming flax in purple and orange, image by Fred Ménagé, on Pixabay.

flax on shale, image by Fred Ménagé, on Pixabay

Surviving the Sierras


Shale rocks on an incline can be a problem.

My brother and his friends with longer legs

sped and scurried down the west side of the mount’s face

bushwacking the trail in leaps and bounds

with calculated slides to reach

the cars waiting to take us home with gleaming windows

in the receding afternoon sun.


Shale rocks on an incline can be a worry.

Burdened with a fifty-pound pack and hiking boots

two sizes too big, first I lost sight of the rest of the group,

then lost all sound leading me to stop and bend over,

breathing in the smell of pine trees

in the presence of no other human being.


Shale rocks on an incline can be dangerous.

Desperate, behind, and afraid,

I too cut the trail and jumped

down, down into a rock field a hundred feet long

until I was stuck—petrified.

To try to ascend meant I’d slide back in place

and to try to descend would be

uncontrollable destructive momentum.


My fears foresaw me clearly as a lonely

broken crumpled motionless mass

at the bottom of a ledge on a switchback of the trail.


Shale rocks on an incline can have a purpose.

Still not able to move, I did what mom taught

and prayed to know what to do.

The answer came in a clear voice, “Drop and roll.”

I quivered in my determination but dropped

into a ball and rolled my best roll.

My body rolled at a fast, but steady pace

for three-fourths of the field

and I landed on the trail below with a puff

of white dust looking like a ghost

without a scratch.


With time to kneel, I prayed to offer God my thanks,

then in young, new liveliness started to run

to the desert floor where the cars, with their high beams on,

waited for me.


Michael Shoemaker is a poet, writer, and photographer. His poems have appeared in Ancient Paths Literary Journal, Front Porch Review, Utah Life Magazine, and elsewhere. His first book, Rocky Mountain Reflections, has just been published

by Poet’s Choice. This photography/poetry collection can be purchased (for 25 U.S. dollars) at: Rocky Mountain Reflections – Poets Choice  Michael lives in Magna, Utah, with his wife

and son where he enjoys looking out on the Great Salt Lake every day.

March 2024 issue

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Apr 09

Delightful poem by Michael Shoemaker.

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