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Poetry Feature: “Kalymnos”

Poet Helen Mort.

[Photo] Helen Mort collection


The rock took all my fingerprints from me.

Below the crag, I watched a man lie down

beneath a canopy of leaves and die.

The bush was starred with wide pink

flowers – by night they’d smell of marzipan.

The shade passed a hand over his shape.

We climbed beside our shadows

through the afternoon, always one move ahead.

When there was nothing left, we came down.

The bay was a lidless eye. As I got close,

the dead man gathered himself up, replaced

his hat and walked away.

This poem was inspired by climbing in Kalymnos for the first time a few years ago and thinking about that point in the day when you feel as if you’ve climbed out of your own skin (to the point where you might hallucinate, as the narrator does in this poem). A number of the poems in my new collection connect to mountains, rocks, running or the body in some way, celebrating some of the landscapes that fuel my writing and the ways climbing can change perception.
–Helen Mort

[This poem is from Mort’s second collection of poetry,
No Map Could Show Them, available July 2016 from Random House Press. The publisher notes, “Here are odes to the women who dared to break new ground–from Miss Jemima Morrell, a young Victorian woman from Yorkshire who hiked the Swiss Peaks in her skirts and petticoats, to the modern British mountaineer Alison Hargreaves, who died descending from the summit of K2”–Ed.]