After the snow, after carved corpses
exposed the icy survival of the last
Donner Party members, the Belgian
Keseberg boasted of eating the frozen flesh
of dead companions, starved pioneers
who’d stormed the Great Salt desert in five frantic
days, depleted of water, oxen
fleeing, only to face the High Sierras’
great face, a road no wagon could pass.
They made it a day late, double-teamed, double-
crossed by a scheming guide trying to
cross that high pass before the first blizzard struck.
A day too late. They arrived the night.
the snows began, flurries flying random as
luck. Inside lean-tos and sheds, the log
shanties with beds of straw and animal fur,
the watch began: the slow erosion
of food supplies, of skin that shrank on faces
till masks of hunger hid all but the eyes.