The Trail to Glory

It was an ordinary late winter day,
About twenty-two below,
The wind was light and northerly;
That low Yukon sun was shining.
I had ten dogs in front of me, every one loping along.
     A trail I thought I knew
     Wound upward into the mountains;
It joined a chain of lakes, hard frozen, needless to say,
Ice about two feet thick blown over with wind-packed snow.

That trail was smooth and wide;
I had nothing to do but hold on.
Standing there on the runners
I watched my guys do their job,
A little bit cold and stupid, not thinking about too much.
     The sky was intensely blue;
     The sun glared over the mountains.
Dazzled, I never noticed we had topped some sort of divide
Until suddenly I realised — the familiar roadway was gone.

Squinting, I shook my head
And thought, what have these dogs done now?
Did I miss a turn back there?
Are those leaders up to some mischief?
I was more than a little bewildered and I couldn't recall that landscape.
     This was no trail I knew,
     Though I'd sledded all over those mountains;
I had no idea where it led
And we'd got there I didn't know how.

I was dazzled and couldn't quite see
Just where the team was going.
Rebounding off ice and snow
With the colours of rainbows and diamonds,
The midday sun refracted crystalline slivers of glory
     Pouring down out of the blue,
     Blinding my view of the mountains.
I was lost like a ship at sea,
Lost in a cloud of unknowing.

My dogs, and this is no story,
Were twenty feet off the ground!
They were loping through thin winter air
In long easy effortless bounds.
I was almost certain I saw little silver wings on their shoulders.
     With a shiver I suddenly knew
     (Far below us the mountains)
We had mounted the trail to glory
And God's glory was all around!

We flew over range after range.
I was downright scared to look down
As the sled mounted higher and higher
Through diamonds, snow clouds and dazzle —
Lost among alien suns and inconceivable glory.
     The horizon was indigo blue,
     Pierced by the icy white mountains.
The terrain was utterly strange —
God knows how we ever got down.

I followed the back trail in silence
As we made our way home from that run.
(This man is a liar, you'll say,
Or a drunk or some kind of hop-head.)
But if I was only lying, or dreaming, or high on some substance,
     How was it, then, out of the blue
     When we came back down from the mountains,
I returned with a sled full of diamonds
That melted away in the sun?

— J. Jeffrey Bragg (March 1996)