Do Not Proceed Beyond This Point without a Guide Poem by David Wagoner

Do Not Proceed Beyond This Point without a Guide

Rating: 5.0

The official warning, nailed to a hemlock,
Doesn't say why. I stand with my back to it,
Afraid I've come as far as I can
By being stubborn, and look
Downward for miles at the hazy crags and spurs.

A rubble-covered ridge like a bombed stairway
Leads up beyond the sign. It doesn't
Seem any worse than what I've climbed already.
Why should I have to take a guide along
To watch me scaring myself to death?

What was it I wanted? A chance to look around
On a high rock already named and numbered
By somebody else? A chance to shout
Over the heads of people who quit sooner?
Shout what? I can't go tell it on the mountain.

I sit for a while, raking the dead leaves
Out of my lungs and traveling lightheaded
Downward again in my mind's eye, till there's nothing
Left of my feet but rags and bones
And nothing to look down on but my shoes.

The closer I come to it, the harder it is to doubt
How well this mountain can take me or leave me.
The hemlock had more sense. It stayed where it was,
Grew up and down at the same time, branch and root,
Being a guide instead of needing one.

Error Success