The signs are clear, a glacier was there once:
the ‘U’-shaped valley cut with cirques,
erratics perched like petrified birds,
flat river plains, tell-tale lakes edged by moraine,
and the scarring of the rocks where the ice dragged away.
You will ascend higher still to gain a better view,
unsure if you have crossed from Italy into France;
up there even borders of nations liquify and confuse
in a heat that clings, leaches at the will,
and your shadows will billow like smoke in the scrub,
while all around the rocks and cliffs will gleam,
alabaster and marble basilicas of sun-whitened stone.
Soon you will reach the apex of a ridge,
its peaks broken and jagged like a dead giant’s teeth,
there descend to a pool of shade and welcome its cold,
where a thin rope bars your path, guards a jewel,
pale and a mere few metres in size, cordoned
from the hands of worshipful pilgrims,
shimmering and cool like a vein of white jasper,
is the very last of the ice, the Mer-de-Glace.