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Lay for the Day
28th May

The feast of St Bernard of Montjoux, the patron saint of mountaineers, who built refuges for travellers in the Alps. A much-loved breed of dog and two Alpine passes – the Great and the Little Bernard – still bear his name.
This feast was – by coincidence, I suppose – the night that Edmund Hillary and Tensing Norgay, left alone by the rest of their team, spent precariously camped on an ice slope below the summit of Mount Everest, before they made their final ascent on the following day, 29th May 1953.
The poem is about my eldest brother, and also appears on his birthday, 15th August.



An ascetic
in spareness and
strength of physique,
his aesthetic

goes slow to be
sure of his holds
on the world’s mad

A solitude
is where he’s glad
to catch the light,
rock and water,

opens his heart
to the shutter.
The Nepalese
returned a sense

of wonder grown
gradually since
earnest youth was
plagued by teendom’s

drossy mockers.
I remember
“Draw me something,”
which something turned

out a dragon,
sky-born earth-force,
Chinese fashion.
I copied scores

of that totem.
Picture him ridge-
striding, splayed sun
spilt from a ledge

of cloud, a child,
like the dragon,
of elements,
rare, here and gone.


John Gibbens
from Characters: You & I

The Lay Reader: an archive of the poetic calendar