"Bristlecone in Blue" — a poem by Jennifer Battisti


Rick Goldwaser / Wikimedia Commons

Bristlecone in Blue


Ascending takes effort.

My hamstrings protest; dizzy spells,

a cold sharp ache coiling in my ears,

my mind like an open door— all the flies let in,

the bodies below, still

waiting on warm asphalt.


There seems no good reason to climb

mountains anymore.

We left our grieving city, the sound of

trauma still audible

beneath our heavy sips of air

switchback after switchback, then higher still

the silence first like a murder then solvent.


My heart blooms suddenly—the delinquency

of being alive.

We rest at Ponderosa, inhale

sun-baked butterscotch

from its bark, the sweetness, an infidelity.


The dead still stand here centuries later.

The canyon bursts open a boneyard of bristlecone

in blue, the sky so certain—

gnarled trunks support branches, poised

petrified lightening, limbs

held up in terror

and surrender.


Wind-carved fissures filled with termite families

burrow and devour history,

because the earth won’t waste one single thread.

Quiet is a tender animal at our feet, a helix

of sorrow and prayer held in the den of its mouth.


There is nothing here to discover;

when we reach Raintree,

the oldest living thing in Nevada,

we are finally far enough away to be seduced

by hope.

The 3,000 year old tree is neither boastful nor glum.

Beneath a heap of roots, thick as thighs, it forges

soil, tangled by time into braided bark.

It forks turbulent winds through waxy needles,

It asks us to unbutton our souls—


Carnage is compost here,

a harvest for those breathless and bruised.

at 10,000 feet, the air is too thin

to remember how we swore we couldn’t go on.



Jennifer Battisti, a Las Vegas native, studied creative writing at the College of Southern Nevada. Her work has appeared in the anthology Legs of Tumbleweed, Wings of Lace, as well as in Desert CompanionMinerva RisingHelen: a Literary Magazine, Red Rock ReviewCitron Review, and elsewhere. She is the workshop facilitator for the Las Vegas Poetry Organization. Her debut chapbook, Echo Bay, is forthcoming in 2018.  


Support comes from


More Stories

DC Blog
Wednesday Poem
Feb 17, 2016

The Chariot

Desert Companion
All things to all people
Fullest house
Desert Companion
Home life