After Jedediah Smith, 1827
Are you surprised to discover that mountain men
know what the various marks of punctuation mean
and can string a few words together, properly spelt?
That we are as well-versed in Shakespeare and Scripture
as parish rectors, and travel heavily laden with books?
Your Hegelian skepticism is justified, to be sure:
accept not truth which experience cannot confirm.
Are you familiar with Frederick Rouillard’s Restorator?
It is today as fine a place in Boston to take a meal as any,
uniting usefulness with economy, utility with convenience,
the tables agreeably situated for healthful ventilation,
surfeiting its patrons with excellent wines and cordials,
toothsome soups and broths, pastries in wide variety,
a la mode beef, bacon, poultry, and other diverse viands.
But confirm this with experience and accept it as truth:
spend two weeks crossing an uncharted, parched desert
in the peak of summer heat with supplies exhausted;
dine if you will on the poor flesh of your failing mounts
and after that do without food of any fashion for days;
when your water horns run dry, bury one companion
in the arid soil, to keep him from withering completely.
Only then may you truly savor
provendor of a single antelope
delivered unto you in the scrub
above the Great Salt Lake
at the point of your own death,
flesh flensed from sinew and hide,
sliced into strips and spit-roasted.
This is the definition of restored,
Juliens and Rouillards be damned.
Marvelous meals? Ones which matter.