Rimes of an Ancient Ski Teacher - Heinsian Skiboy Poetry by Gary Heinz - HTML preview

PLEASE NOTE: This is an HTML preview only and some elements such as links or page numbers may be incorrect.
Download the book in PDF, ePub, Kindle for a complete version.

On, Hart Ski! and Olin!

To the top of the lift,

34 -- Heinsian SKI-BOY POETRY

to the top of it all!

Now, Ski away!

Ski away!

Ski away, all!"

To soon there, I found myself

reaching the bottom,

Where I met with the lift man,

whose job is to load 'em:

As I took off my pole straps

and was turning around,

I got a nod from the lift man

as he made not a sound;

I too spoke not a word,

with my head gave a quirk,

And was then on his chair

as I sat with a jerk--

But I heard him exclaim

as I rose out of sight:

"Happy Skiing, To All! . . .

. . . And, To All, . . .

A Good Chair Ride!"


A Chair Ride Before Christmas -- 35

36 -- Heinsian SKI-BOY POETRY

The Turn Not Taken -- 37

Many a ski-boy or ski-girl gets bucked off when they don't have enough weight on their outside ski: complacency or fear causes us to get too much weight on the inside ski, which generally results in tip-crossing or doing-the-splits, which either way results in a big karmic face-plant--"The Turn Not Taken" is about this lack of commitment. Heins wrote it in 1985, the year he got asked to go to the Snow Queen Ball by two different girls. Robert Frost might have loved this poem. . . .

The Turn

Not Taken

My two skis diverged on a powdery slope; And, sorry I could not ski on both,

And, be one mortal, long I stood

And looked down at one as soon as I could To where it dove to the undergrowth;

38 -- Heinsian SKI-BOY POETRY

Then I looked at my other ski, just as fair, And having indeed the better claim

Because it had surfaced and maybe would steer

--Though as for that my panic here

Had rendered it really about as lame.

Both skis that turn unequally lay

In snow no ski had recently packed

--Oh, I kept the first for another way; Yet, knowing how lateness makes skis splay, I doubted I could ever get it back.

I shall be telling you with a sigh,

Somewhere ages and edges hence:

My two skis diverged, and I--

I chose the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the diffidence.


The Turn Not Taken -- 39

40 -- Heinsian SKI-BOY POETRY

The Cremation of Pamela McGee -- 41

Whereas the craven just won't ski, Pamela McGee is perhaps something of a wanna-be ski-girl.

McGee is already a pretty good skier--she's had lots of lessons,--but fear of falling holds her back; so, as her teacher and not her baby-sitter, Heins gets frus-trated and just wants to get rid of her by cremating her on one of Jackson Hole's expert slopes notorious for difficult half-baked crud snow and its point-of-no-return logistics, Lower Sublette Ridge. Written in 1987, before easy access to the area, this Robert Service parody was long Heins's own favorite, since it touches on the sometimes neurotic teacher-student relationship. . . .

The Cremation

of Pamela McGee

There are strange things done

for some mountain fun

by some ski-boys who are so bold;

The mountain trails have their secret tales

42 -- Heinsian SKI-BOY POETRY

that would make your blood run cold; The ski-lift heights have seen queer sights, but the queerest they ever would see . . .

Is the morn on the ledge 'bove Sublette Ridge

. . . I would cremate Pam McGee.

Now Pamela McGee was from Grand Targhee where the powder blooms and blows--

Why she left her home intermedium to roam down steep bowls, God only knows;

She was kind of slow, but the land of snow seemed to hold her like a spell;

Though she'd always ski in her homely way, and she'd sooner die than fall.

Itwas Christmas Day,

we were schussing our way

down the Rendezvous Bowl.

Talk of your crud!--it was like fast mud and waiting to take its toll;

If your skis you'd close,

then your ankles froze

till one turn you couldn't ski--

It was fairly fun, and the only one

to whimper . . . was Pam McGee.

At this very sight, as your skis would light with your boots unbuckling below,

As the snow was weird, and each skier feared

The Cremation of Pamela McGee -- 43

a pre-release from heel or toe,

She turned to me, and "Gar'," says she,

"a ski-girl could die, I guess. . . .

And, if I do, I'm asking that you

. . . won't refuse my last request."

Well, she skied so low that I couldn't say no; then she said with a sort of moan:

"It's this cursed crud--it feels like mud, and I'm banking clean through the whole turn; Yet 'sides being dead, it's planting my head in the icy snow that pains;

So I want you to swear that, foul or fair, you'll cremate my last remains."

Well, a student's need is a thing to heed, so I swore I would not fail.

And we started to roll down Laramie Bowl, but, God! she looked ghastly pale:

She banked on her ski, and she raved all day of her home in Grand Targhee;

Yet, before she would fall,

a corpse would be all

that was left of Pamela McGee.

There was no easy flake

in my rhythmical wake

as I anticipated horror-driven--

With a student half-dead

44 -- Heinsian SKI-BOY POETRY

whom I couldn't get rid

because of a promise given;

Out of balance she'd sway,

and she seemed to say

"You may tax your brawn and brains, But you promised true,

and it would be up to you

. . . to cremate my last remains."

Now a debt unpaid is a promise made, and Jackson Hole has its own stern code.

In the turns to come,

though my lips were dumb,

in my heart how I cursed that load;

In her frightful flight in the morning light, she approached the end of her rope;

She wouldn't ski well!

she was headed for Hell!

--oh, God! it was hard to cope.

Now, every inch of the way, the crud that lay seemed to heavy and heavier grow;

And on I went, though my student half-spent, and our patience was getting low;

The snow was bad, and I felt half mad, but I swore I would not give in;

And I tried to sing without hateful sting, but we could-n't . . . force . . . a grin.

The Cremation of Pamela McGee -- 45

Till I came to the ledge . . .

'bove Sublette Ridge,

and a blanket of wet cement there lay; You may call it not nice,

. . . but I saw in a trice . . .

I wanted to take her this way. . . .

And I looked at it, and I thought a bit, and I looked at my chosen schi-bum. . . .

Then, "Here!" said I, with a sudden cry,

"is my cre-ma-tor-eum! "

--Some hot turns I tore!

toward the valley floor!

and I lit the snow on fire!

Some boulder-rocks I found!

that were waiting around!

and I launched myself much higher!

My skis just soared! and I must have roared!

--such a blaze you seldom see. . . .

Then I stopped down below, . . .

with my eyes all aglow, . . .

and I waved . . . for Pam McGee.

Then I made a hike, for I might not like

. . . to see her auger so;

And the Heavens scowled!

and some skiers howled!

and the wind began to blow!--

It was windy cold, but the hot sweat rolled

46 -- Heinsian SKI-BOY POETRY

down my cheeks, and I don't know why; Then! . . . the cold crud smoke!

in my dirty joke!

b'gan billowing! toward the sky!!!

I do not know . . . how long in the snow . . .

I wrestled with grisly cheer--

McGee finally! went down

and was churning around!

in a violent storm! I'm sure!

I was sick with dread, . . . but I bravely said . . .

"I'll just take a peep upside--

I guess she's cooked, . . .

and it's time I looked: . . ."

Then my eyes . . . I opened wide:

And there popped Pam!

looking cool and calm!

on the heart of a turning ski!

And she wore a smile you could see a mile!

and she cheered "Hey, Gar'! Look at me!

It's fine snow here, but the bottom's near, and I just have . . . shed some noose; Since I left Targhee, easy Gran' Targhee, it's the first time I've been loose."

There are strange things done

for some mountain fun

by some ski-boys who are so bold;

The Cremation of Pamela McGee -- 47

The mountain trails have their secret tales that would make your blood run cold; The ski-lift heights have seen queer sights, but the queerest they ever did see . . .

Was the morn on the ledge

'bove Sublette Ridge . . .

I tried to cremate . . . Pam McGee.


48 -- Heinsian SKI-BOY POETRY

How Do I Ski Thee? -- 49

The following parody of an Elizabeth Barrett Browning sonnet is not just about Heins's caring for his skis; it details the versatility of a good skier.

The good technical ski-boy considers all the variables: steep or flat? deep or icy? heavy crud or light? bumps or groomed? concave or convex?

cloudy or sunny? He sees the positive way of each condition, finding steering easier on a bump, edg-ing and unweighting easier on the steep, and he knows that visibility during a storm is better amongst the trees. The true expert is one with his skis because he skis from his heart rather than his guts, thus finding harmony with the mountain rather than attacking it. . . .

How Do I Ski Thee?

How do I ski thee? Let me count the ways:

50 -- Heinsian SKI-BOY POETRY

I ski thee in deep on steep with height; My sole can press you in crud . . . or stay light; Or take the bumps of Bridger with Ideal Grace.

I ski thee on the level . . . of every day's Most quiet need, . . . by sun . . . or goggle-light.

I catch air freely, as skis strive for flight; I ski thee purely, as Pepi Stiegler through gates.

I ski thee with the passion, as seduced On my first steeps, and with my ski-boy faith; I ski thee with the love I learned to use In my first deeps,-- I ski thee with my Breath, Smiles, and Turns of all my Life!--and, if God choose,

I shall but ski the better . . . After Death.


How Do I Ski Thee? -- 51

52 -- Heinsian SKI-BOY POETRY

A Turn Beneath a Turn -- 53

Teaching skiing means manipulating three pri-mary variables in the skier's experience, namely the slope difficulty, the snow-n-weather conditions, and the type of turn or turns to opt for; so there are times when a student should opt for one good turn and make it right, and there are times when a student can expect a hundred good turns rhythmically linked--one good turn deserves another. The prob-lem with many people's ski-learning schedule is that they desire a hundred good turns before they can even do one--it's just like their high-interest credit-card debt. Said Heins, after thirteen years of ski-teaching and writing this poem in 1992, "Like all good things in life, whether it's linking turns, riding broncs, or building a readership, you can't just yearn it, you have to earn it." This may be the most important poem for Heins's students so far.

A Turn

Beneath a Turn

Take your skis now with the How,

And, in parting from you now,

54 -- Heinsian SKI-BOY POETRY

Thus much let me avow:

You are not wrong who yearn

That one day you'll make a turn;

Yet, if all hope has flown away

And to your skis you cannot convey

A hundred turns, much less one,

Is it therefore the less fun? (Probably.) For all we ever earn or yearn

. . . Is but a turn . . . beneath a turn.

I take the lift from off the Floor

And make it not a Great Big Chore,

And I hold within my mind

S-turns of the cold-smoke kind!

--How few! we get upon the steep!

In the powder snow so deep,

While I weep, while I weep--

O, God! can I not ask

One of them can feel the task?

O, God! can I not save

One student with excess crave?!

For all we ever earn or just yearn

. . . Is but a turn . . . beneath a turn nrut a htaeneb

beneath a turn. . . .


A Turn Beneath a Turn -- 55

56 -- Heinsian SKI-BOY POETRY

The Rime of the Ancient Schi Lehrer -- 57

An all too common mistake among beginning skiers is to take their first lesson and immediately assume they've mastered the sport, especially if the first instructor is so dangerously smooth as to make it seem like there's nothing to it. In this next poem, not finished until 1993, the Ancient Schi Lehrer has three students--a thinker, a watcher, and a doer; he gets done with their introductory lesson and leaves them alone to practice on the bunny-hill while he goes up to do some expert free-skiing. Applying peer pressure, the doer persuades the other two to go up on the steepest lift. Of course, the three become stranded in the steep-n-deep--only to be rescued by the Ancient Schi Lehrer himself, who may be getting cantankerous in his old age. In-stead of a "wedding guest," as in the Samuel Taylor Coleridge classic, Heins uses "skidding guests,"

or vacationing skiers less likely to know how or have the skills to carve any of their turns.

58 -- Heinsian SKI-BOY POETRY

The Rime of the

Ancient Schi Lehrer

(Part 1)

It is an ancient Schi Lehrer,

And he greets his class of three;

He holds them with his glittering eye, These three who wish to ski.

The bunny-hill is packed and smooth--

It's time they all step in;

The class is met, the stage is set,

And it's time to begin.

He holds them with his glittering eye

--The class of three stands still

And listens like a 3-years child

--The Lehrer hath his will.

The class of three who wish to ski

--They cannot choose but hear;

And thus spake on the Ancient Man,

The bright-eyed Schi Lehrer:

"Before we steer,

before we veer,

The Rime of the Ancient Schi Lehrer -- 59

Merrily do we stop

--Below the steep,

below the deep,

Below the mountain-top."

The class of three--they watch him ski

--They cannot choose but peer;

And thus skis down the Ancient Man,

The bright-eyed Schi Lehrer:

With pressure and edge,

he steers a wedge;

--His stop is crystal clear.

"Now, class of three, it's time to ski

--Each-one right from the top;

With pressure and edge, steer to a wedge, And ski down here and stop."

. . . And, with pressure and edge,

steered to a wedge,

They all ski down and stop.

The Schi Lehrer's impressed and pleased, Pleased they each do stop:

"You all can learn . . . it's time to turn

--Now watch me from the top."

And thus skis down the Ancient Man,

Below the mountain-top:

He steers his feet to-ward the left

60 -- Heinsian SKI-BOY POETRY

--For those three turns he,

And he shone bright and on the right Sinks down onto his ski.

"Now, class of three, it's time to ski

--Each one take your turn:

With pressure and edge,

now steer that wedge

As if you yearn to learn."

And, with pressure and edge,

each steers that wedge,

And all to turn do learn:

They steer their feet to-ward the right, And much impressed is he;

And each shone deft and on the left

Goes down on-to his ski.

Better and better every time,

Till over at last at noon,

The class of three--they now feel free, For they're feeling more in tune.

The class of three who now feel free

--And only one can hear:

And thus spake on the Ancient Man,

The bright-eyed Schi Lehrer:

"Now don't you do a Hellish thing,

The Rime of the Ancient Schi Lehrer -- 61

For it would work you woe:

Some skills devoid, you should all avoid The steep slopes and deep snow."

--"Ah, wretch," thought they who wish to play,

"Don't tell us we can't go."

(Part 2)

Thus goes the Ancient Schi Lehrer;

He leaveth all of three

--Beyond the shadow of the lift,

He goes on up to ski:

Oh, steep, it is a gentle thing

To ski from pole to pole;

To Powder Skiing, praise be given,

To cover gentle steeps from Heaven

That slide un-der his sole.

Both left and right,

through cold-smoke white,

On his skis press he;

From pole to pole,

in total control,

From bowl to bowl,

in Jackson Hole,

He skis in Harmony.

Turn after turn, turn after turn,

62 -- Heinsian SKI-BOY POETRY

He skied with Balance in Motion,

As idyllic as a porpoise fish

On down a powdered ocean.

His ski breeze blew, his white foam flew, His furrow followed free;

He was the best that ever burst

Into that wide white sea.

Seven rides and seven runs,

Having soo much funn;

Seven rides and seven runs,

--And he'd only just begun.

(Part 3)

A Skidding Guest let out a moan

--He cannot choose but peer:

And thus skis by the Ancient Man

The bright-eyed Schi Lehrer.

Chair after chair, chair after chair, Three stood, nor breath, nor motion; As idle as a pregnant mare,

. . . Until one got a notion:

A Skidding Guest--he beat his breast, Though still an amateur;

He says, "Let's go, we'll take it slow!"

The Rime of the Ancient Schi Lehrer -- 63

--Applying peer pressure.

They wondered and looked sideways up, Fear in their hearts about the top,

And pondering their ski tips;

The doer is dumb,

the thinker hath fright,

The watcher's face

in a trance gleams white,

. . . Till they climb upon the steepest chair

--The lift-man told of skiing that's fair--

. . . Those three . . . were headed up.

Course, now a storm-blast came, and he Was tyrannous and strong;

He struck with his o'ertaking stings And chased them up along.

And now there came both mist and snow, And it grew wondrous cold;

And ice chair-high . . . came floating by As green as em-er-auld.

And through deep drifts by icy cliffs Did send a dismal sheen;

Nor shapes of men, nor skiers of kin, Fierce wind was all between.

On swinging chairs

64 -- Heinsian SKI-BOY POETRY

and dipping down,

Three hung on tight

with yell and frown,

Starting to wonder they'd e'er be found, And downward bowed each head;

The storm drove fast,

loud roared the blast,

And upward, aye, they dread.

At length . . . did stop up-on the top, And therough the fog it came;

As if it had been a Christian soul,

They hailed it in God's name:

Nor dim, nor dread,

like God's own head,

The Glorious Sun uprist:

No more concern, they had skill to turn And got rid the fog and mist--

"'Twas right!" thought three who wish to ski,

"To ride up-on the lift."

. . . But:

Powder, Powder EveryWhere,

And Lots of Turns to take,

Powder, Powder EveryWhere,

But: Not - a - Turn did make.

They froze when they looked sideways down,

The Rime of the Ancient Schi Lehrer -- 65

Fear in their hearts ea-si-ly found

--Their heartbeats b'gan to pound;

Three skidders dim, and dense the white, Each Skidding Guest's face

like a lamp shone fright

--From three faces . . .

did drops drip down.

Now they had done a hellish thing, And it would work 'em woe:

Though skills devoid, they did not avoid The steep slopes and deep snow;

"Ah, wretch," thought they who wish to play,

"We'll just have to take it slow."

The very deep did not-- Oh, Christ!

If ever three could ski--

Yeah, n-powder snakes did crawl opaque U-pon that powd'ry sea.

At length . . . did cause ski tips to cross

--And six ski poles from hell

Could swear they'd shot and albatross,--

And wone by wone they fell.

Their skis did from their bodies fly!

--They like-spears stuck in the snow; And every sole, put on standby,

B'came packed with icy snow.

66 -- Heinsian SKI-BOY POETRY

Alone, alone, all all alone,

Alone on a wide white sea,

And ne'er a saint took pity on

Three souls who wished to ski.

There passed a scary time. Each throat Was parched and glazed each eye;

A scary time, a scary time,

How glazed each weary eye--

Then! looking upward, they beheld

A-something from . . . up High:

At first, it seemed a little speck,

And then it sprayed a mist;

It moved and grooved and took on at last A skier's shape, they wist.

A speck, a mist, a skier, they wist!

--With skill, it neared and neared;

As if it dodged a powder snake,

It plunged and edged and veered.

With ski unslaked, with ski-tips caked, They could not laugh nor wail;

In powder crud, all dumb they stood

And cried "We're saved! . . . We'll sail!"

"God save three, Ancient Schi Lehrer!

The Rime of the Ancient Schi Lehrer -- 67

From powder that plagues three thus!

--We look'st now so,

'cause, with our ski poles,

We caused our skis-to-cross!"

(Part 4)

He scolds them with his glittering eye, The Skidding Guests stand still

And listen like a 3-years child

--The Lehrer hath his will:

"The storm is cleared, the steep is feared, Verily we traverse,

From off the steep, from out the deep, From out a turn adverse."

--"I fear thee, Ancient Schi Lehrer; I fear thy skiing slope,

As it art steep, diff'cult, and deep, And thy skiing's hard to cope."

"I fear thee and thy glittering eye And thy ski poles profound!"

--"Fear not! Fear not! thou Skidding Guests!

Your bodies we'll get down!"

--"But tell us, tell us, speak again, Thy smart response reviewing:

68 -- Heinsian SKI-BOY POETRY

What makes the skis drive on so fast?

--Wha-tis the Mountain doing?!"

"I fear thee, Ancient Schi Lehrer!"

--"Be calm, thou Skidding Guests!

"Tis not your soul that skis in pain, Which will soon be safe a-gain,

And soon you'll get to rest!"

He spake, and they kept skiing on,

As in a gentler weather

--He was right: "Before the fun, We must it ski safe . . . together."

Beyond the danger of the top,

Escaped from powder snakes,

They grooved in tracks of shining white; And, when they got

finally down by moonlight,

Three gave him

. . . Many Thanks.

But, since, at an uncertain lift tower, Old agony returns,

And, till a ghastly lesson's acquired, The heart within thee burns.

"Oh, Skidding Guests, your soles hath been Alone on a wild free ski,

The Rime of the Ancient Schi Lehrer -- 69

Alone on a wide white sea!

--So lonely 'twas that God Himself

Scarce seemed there to ski."

All stood together on the Floor,

Never been much wetter;

All fixed on him their stony eyes:

--"Tomorrow you'll know better:

"Farewell, farewell! but this I tell To thee, thou Skidding Guests:

He skieth well who loveth well--

The Mountain teaches best.

"He learneth first who loveth most All turns both big and small,

For the Dear God who skieth with us

--He ski-with and loveth all."

The Schi Lehrer, whose eye is bright, Whose beard is age with hoar

. . . Is gone, and now the Skidding Guests Turned from the Valley Floor:

They went like one that hath been stunned And is of sense forlorn;

A sadder and a wiser clan,

. . . They'll ski . . .

the morrow morn.

70 -- Heinsian SKI-BOY POETRY


The Rime of the Ancient Schi Lehrer -- 71

72 -- Heinsian SKI-BOY POETRY

-- 73