Sacramento, 1848

        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.