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El Capitan by Full Moon
Kathe L. Palka


During the day you'll see rock climbers, and at night you'll see their
flashlights strung across the face like erratic Christmas tree lights

— Frommer's guide to Yosemite National Park

Touring the valley after dark from an open tram car, we view
Half Dome, North Dome, Clouds Rest, Royal Arches, Sentinel Rock—
all ghost pale by moonlight. The thready glint of Bridalveil Fall
mists to the valley floor to join the calm Merced of summer.
In the shadow of El Capitan we pause while our young ranger shares
his climber's love of Yosemite's fine granite, the strength of its sheer faces.
He has scaled this tower of rock more times than he now cares to count
(or tell his mother)—each climb a journey lasting days,
perhaps a week or more spent fastened to a monolith the height
of three Empire State Buildings. Shocked murmurs confess
both awe and curiosity. How many are there tonight?
With his flashlight, he calls his brethren from their rest
and the pilgrims answer, a dozen or more, in kind.
Like wise men, we peer upward, drawn to newfound stars
and find ourselves at worship in their cathedral, each light
an act of praise amid the grandeur.

From Faith to See and Other Poems (Finishing Line Press 2007).
This poem first appeared in The Bucks County Writer.
Used here with the author's permission.


Kathe L. Palka is the author of two chapbooks of free verse and is an active member of the U.S.1 Poets’ Cooperative. Kathe also writes in the Japanese forms of haiku and tanka. Her poems have appeared in many online and print publications. She lives near Flemington, New Jersey, with her husband of 27 years, their two sons, and her beloved German Shepherd, Jetta. An avid gardener, she enjoys wandering the parklands of her native state whenever time permits. Learn more about her at or at her Haiku Foundation webpage.



Post New Comment:
Bridalveil Fall is poetic in its own right but the inclusion of three Empire State Buildings helps an onlooker gain perspective of this majesty. Wow!
Posted 07/31/2011 08:14 AM

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