Fred Ostrander

Prayer Flags

Nancy, we have walked far into forgotten mountains.

It is like a return, now: the moon-illuminated peak

that reaches unattempted into a black or violet sky

at the distance where the actual merges with memory,

where one may speak from the real, like the actor from the mask,

the eyes immune to the wind

that shines against them…

For so long and on foot we have journeyed —

The cataract under the dangerous ice,

the birth in the animal shelter —

the aged, wrinkled, compassionate women with their several hands in the flashlight —

the steps twisting up, the wind

moving toward us like a runner down the snow…

In the attracting sleep we can hear the singers

each with the reason burning like a stone:

a cure, a knowledge, a reply —

climbing singly, slowly, the immense white

to reach, out of breath, the illumination at the summit-

peaks of rock, wind and the callings,

the cries of the mad from their beds, who lost hold —

and those who stare through the ice, who were released.

The row of prints follows the traveler across the dazzle

and a stringy, overburdened animal with frozen lashes.

Above us, a momentary monastery hangs,

the prayer flags shake as the wind possesses them.