top of page
18 IMG_6039.jpg

Mont Blanc


How fitting—us two leaving in the rain,

With yellow lights outshining every star;

They did not care for bleary eyes—eyes that

Surveyed last night’s ephemera, peeling

Veneers away from the City of Love.

Moth-like crowds spilled onto empty streets,

Whose revelries made mockery of sleep,

Whilst solitary figures at their task

Set out the morning’s cutlery. How much

Of life, that kaleidoscopic vision

Which, if contemplated, dizzies the mind,

Remained unseen! How many monuments

Built to beauty, love, or even God, could

One behold, before that dreaded numbness

Sets in, and eyes look on but do not see?

Away—away from it all. Respite came

In likenesses of willows and lilies,

But even in that tranquil oasis

Amidst the city noise, I saw only

Flat imitations: visions beheld by

Another—harbingers of things to come.

Tiny droplets tinged with gold drew lightning

Streaks across canvases of glass—I traced

Their journeys of accumulation, till

They vanished out of sight, revealing

Birds circling over frozen stubble-plains,

As we were heaved southwards, towards the Alps.



Sunlight broke through the filmiest of screens

And flooded that unbounded space with light.

Our eyes awoke to overexposed scenes,

Which in that instant seemed created new.

Hemmed in on every side by steep-sided cliffs,

I saw snow creeping into crevices,

Illuminating untold aeons, and

As summits sprouted forests full of pine,

The Ain wound itself silently beneath.

How different it felt to be enclosed

By rocks hewn by eternity! Whilst I

Had hankered after boundless horizons,

These monoliths humbled my vision

By preaching truths of man’s irrelevance.

Some say that when we contemplate beauty

We yearn to beget upon it—gliding

Over the green waters of Nantua,

I saw masked travellers gazing outwards,

Beaming snapshots out to avid viewers,

And in that moment felt us communing

With shadows of the Forms themselves—but in

An instant they had fled. Ascending from

Fertile greens to icy blues, snowy crests

Blocked out the shallow arc of winter’s sun.

I strained to glimpse Mont Blanc—visible at

Last! Flanked on every side by lesser peaks,

Stood silently like sentinels at guard.

Could anyone behold this scene, yet gaze

Downwards into their lap? What could you do

But whisper muted vowels beneath your breath?

Who could acclimatise themselves to this?



Masses of bark and needle stood steadfast,

Bearing their icy load. I searched in vain

For reference points, some measure to steady

This dizzying display, one that mocked

The settlements below. I traced skywards

Those lonely giants of the slopes, who strained

Beyond their darkened valleys into light,

Whilst pristine whiteness continued ahead,

Marking out the tide beyond which only

Rocks remained. And with inverted vision,

This vast ocean of pines spilled out before

Me, their snowy outlines demarcating

Each from each. Beneath these frozen surroundings,

Serene and still, the River Arve broke through,

Ceaselessly flowing, raging, sounding out,

Rolling its icy waves towards the town,

Now gushing forward, now gliding unseen,

Pervaded with that energy which dwells

Apart from time. Its sounds were welcome now,

Throwing the valley’s voice into relief:

The wind that played upon the trees like strings,

And drew snowy mandalas onto rocks—

Patterns never to be repeated,

Neither captured by pen, nor by mind.



The morning mist had settled overnight.

Figures pulled into focus from the fog;

I held them for a minute there, before

Panning beyond the fog cover, to where

Three ragged fingers ascended the sky,

Alone among the winds. These intricate

Patterns, shaped like some primeval creature,

Formed—by what? Who could have created

A skyline so varied, and so extreme?

Who made these ever-rugged forms, that still

Confound the ceaseless winds with their stillness?

What kind of God could you commune with here,

Who could impart those hidden truths of life

And time—deep time, how frozen glaciers creep

Backwards, and of their final resting place,

And why these birches shake their snowy leaves

Like old men rising from their sleep? Silence—

Remote, serene, and inaccessible.

Gaze into dazzling whiteness, through which

No rock protrudes, invite your thoughts and fears,

And words, those all too feeble instruments,

In quest of form, some brief understanding,

Leaving this towering edifice behind.

Time, unbeknownst to us, kept passing on,

Whilst I remained above—senses widened,

My self dilating, awaiting that spark

Of the beyond, tasting that same hunger

Which drives ice-picks and crampons into rock;

Abolishing all human distinctions,

Complacencies and self-satisfaction,

Mont Blanc keeps company with death alone.


                                  * * *


I saw three flashes of golden sunlight,

Those dregs of a receding day, before

They yielded to the dark embrace of night.

Machines patrolled the slopes, their lights searching

Like some detective’s torch, or like the stars

Themselves. Warm breath against cold air, soft snow

Compacted underfoot, the river’s voice

Piercing through thick silence, the peaks glowing

Under the waning moon, its milky light

Bathing all in stillness, save for one crow,

Whose starward flight we tracked against the moon,

And with your hands pulled tightly into mine,

We stood and watched infinity flicker.


When writing this poem, I often found myself turning to Jon Hopkins’ album, Music for Psychedelic Therapy, for inspiration. Three tracks (“Tayos Caves, Ecuador i, ii, and iii”, collected into a single version below) stood out to me especially. If listening to (ambient) music whilst reading poetry is your thing, try playing it in the background as you read…

bottom of page