I’ll Love You Until the End of the World

by Jill Mceldowney

The summit of Everest

is the size of a dinner table.

We touch hands across it in the dimly lit restaurant.

I always think of you as dead—

It hurts
to know and though I know
that there is always something to be made from pain,

I don’t want this

to be another night.

I don’t want this to be how I last remember you.

Don’t let this be the last time

your hands gather on my body

like this—

not here,
not this passage of bread,

not my body filling, drowning
at 26,000—

while the scene is fading. I want you to say
“Never leave me”
and I will live


here with you even if it means being ice,

if it means taking off my clothes

in the no air here

and suffocating

on the monochromatic silence of sky

cooling, injured, beginning,
making ice,

my breathing clawing how I want it. I want

this glistering black mountain, graveyard of scaleless fish in the
wind’s tide, glowing out from the spine.

In this you,
there can be no aftermath.
And I don’t know why I can’t stop

trying to prove love is more final than death,

trying to bring you back
from the dead.

Maybe I know the dead

don’t like to be alone.

Maybe I like the climb—

the raw, the serac, the telephone ringing.
What is it—

the air, the lack
of it

or love
that has me eaten
by ice


say that is a once in a lifetime kind of pain—

a pain that only helps me understand other pain.
Or maybe

I want to know what actually happened
to your mind,

if only to understand what is going to happen to my own,

this high up where the cameras stop working or what is captured
on film is never believed.

You say to me: “If you are sleepless, know you are awake

in someone else’s dream.”

But what does it mean

that I am dreaming of you?

I am dreaming of the dead.

On this planet of distance,
in this house of regret

the upper rooms are haunted and ghosts

keep the lights on at strange hours,

never leave when asked.
never come when called.

The telephone is ringing and the dead on Everest answer:

“I am so cold—please

don’t cry. Everything will be fine.”

“Why aren’t you coming back?”

Let me tell you what a ghost is—

I will

stay awake
against the things that want to hurt you.

I will talk out loud to keep them away—
to keep
the future begging—
hands outstretched

for something to eat.

Image: @artbalistkiy / stock.adobe.com