Jim Cobabe
Collected Prose and Poetry



I don't know what it is in me that triggers the flow of prose. I don't
save many of my writings. The process of writing seems to be, for me, a
sort of cathartic. (Cool word!)

My writing seems to be one of the most compulsive of acts. Mostly I'm
driven to write something prosaic, from the throes of some titanic
mental struggle. (Just as an aside, I tend to see most of my mental
struggles as titanic epics, only in proportion to my own feeble
cognition, I suppose! <lol>)

Anyway, it seems that in the process of mental purification, some
unbidden and undisciplined stream of words materializes.

Sometimes I write them down.

Then it fades away like an afterimage.

--Jim Cobabe



Great and Small

Towering firs raise into the blazing blue,
their boughs reaching up in mighty supplication.
Framing the world across mountain tops and airy ridges,
seemingly, holding up the sky.

On forest floor below, humbly graced,
with lacy bracken ferns, lush green, so pleasing to the eye.
Bowed with fronds sweeping low to the earth,
catching the sun's few spare rays.

--Jim Cobabe



Stormy Night

Shocked and blinded by the harshest illumination of an instant,
the heavens riven in resounding crescendo, flung to the ground, deafened
by a violent assault of palpable sound, far surpassing the threshold of

Stricken with panic, I cried out, cowered in huddled trembling, eyes hid
and ears covered, anticipating the stroke of another fearsome bolt.

But there was only velvety blackness, and ringing, empty silence.

--Jim Cobabe




The Question of Injustice

And they brought their wives and children together, and whosoever believed or had been taught to believe in the word of God they caused that they should be cast into the fire; and they also brought forth their records which contained the holy scriptures, and cast them into the fire also, that they might be burned and destroyed by fire.

And it came to pass that they took Alma and Amulek, and carried them forth to the place of martyrdom, that they might witness the destruction of those who were consumed by fire.

 And when Amulek saw the pains of the women and children who were consuming in the fire, he also was pained; and he said unto Alma: How can we witness this awful scene? Therefore let us stretch forth our hands, and exercise the power of God which is in us, and save them from the flames.

But Alma said unto him: The Spirit constraineth me that I must not stretch forth mine hand; for behold the Lord receiveth them up unto himself, in glory; and he doth suffer that they may do this thing, or that the people may do this thing unto them, according to the hardness of their hearts, that the judgments which he shall exercise upon them in his wrath may be just; and the blood of the innocent shall stand as a witness against them, yea, and cry mightily against them at the last day.

Now Amulek said unto Alma: Behold, perhaps they will burn us also.

And Alma said: Be it according to the will of the Lord. But, behold, our work is not finished; therefore they burn us not.

(Book of Mormon, Alma 14:8-13.)

At the frightful sight of their smoking ashes,
Will you say: "This is result of eternal laws
Directing the acts of a free and good God!"
Will you say, in seeing this mass of victims:
"God is revenged, their death is the price for their crimes?"
What crime, what error did these children,
Crushed and bloody on their mothers' breasts, commit?

(Voltaire, 1775)

Do we have the testimony and faith to accept Alma's answers?

As long as I'm keeping cool, Alma's answers work fine for me. Perhaps it is easier to be philosophical about other people's pain. But when I find myself starting to get a lot warmer, and the flames are rising around me, I begin to have second thoughts.

Please understand what I mean to say. I am not repudiating my true faith, nor do I think my testimony is unraveling. Nor am I recommending that you or anyone else do so. Rather, I'm discovering that in the face of challenge, some of the things in which I invested my faith have proven to be not true. This is more of a "weeding the garden" process than one of losing faith.

One hopes that the end result of such a refining will eventually be a remnant kernel of unshakable eternal truths. It appears that I have a long way to go.

--- Jim Cobabe




The Price of Freedom

The bird, a lone young kestrel, graces the skies in beauty and majesty, lofting effortlessly on swift wings, as he scans the range for prey. Circling the bluffs, scudding across the open blue sky like a tiny missile, in a sudden ferocious stoop he plummets down, ferociously intent on sinking his needle-sharp talons into the flesh of something huddling unseen and unsuspecting on the forest floor.

Arrowing through the trees at tremendous speed, he makes the slightest miscalculation in his flight. An outstretched wing brushes against the stalwart shoulder of a towering fir tree, unyielding and massive.

He spins out of control, shrieking in shocked pain and shedding a trail of gory feathers. As he slams into the ground, the fatal trauma is obvious; his left wing is shredded to ruins.

The dying bird claws across the rocky ridge, struggling in vain with ebbing strength to obtain some unknown and unreachable place of refuge. As his life blood and energy quickly drain away into the calmly receptive earth, the violent and convulsive movements of the crumpled and wretched bird grow still. He raises a last cry of angry defiance and protest, then his head bows to the ground and he is still.

Later, a wandering coyote happens upon the remains and makes a meal of it. Nothing is left but feathers that flutter away in the breezes.

--- Jim Cobabe

Legacies of Pain

...Speak as they please, what does the mountain care?
Ah, but a man's reach should exceed his grasp,
Or what's a heaven for? All is silver-grey,
Placid and perfect with my art: the worse!
I know both what I want and what might gain,
And yet how profitless to know, to sigh
"Had I been two, another and myself,
"Our head would have o'erlooked the world!" No doubt.

(From Robert Browning 1855)

Some endure the legacy of pain inflicted by matching human weakness
against nature's challenge.

Others long mourn by suffering and ill-treatment, at the hand of human
cruelty and thoughtlessness.

I do not know which is more senseless.

--Jim Cobabe


Legacies of Endurance

I made a pilgrimage this weekend to the slopes of Mount Evans,
to pay my respects to a grove of peculiar trees that inhabit that

These the pines of a particular breed that choose to live their lives
out, at forbidding lofty heights, where other species abjure.
Fire and rain, wind and snow, all the elements combine
to blast these enduring creatures without pity or respite.

Not the towering graceful beauties of the forest, these.
The aged pines are twisted and gnarled into bizarre stunted gnomes.
Battle scars from aeons of withstanding the destructive forces of nature
cover their flanks.

And yet they endure.

Some of the oldest patriarchs, clinging to life by the thinnest of
threads, have witnessed the awesome pagent of an unimaginable span of
ages, as time passed before them, hundreds upon hundreds of seasons
spinning by, a thosand generations in the lifetime of men.

I consider these trees, with their stunning longevity. They do not
complain about the travail or suffering, though many of them have
obviously suffered greatly. They do not question their purpose, or
falter in the mission--to live, and keep on living. The trees endure,
and do not ask why.

There is an incredible, priceless beauty in endurance. Perhaps it is
beyond our understanding today. I feel certain that the trees possess
this secret knowledge.

 How long will it take us to learn?

-- Jim Cobabe

The Panther

His vision, from the constantly passing bars,
has grown so weary that it cannot hold
anything else. It seems to him there are
a thousand bars; and behind the bars, no world.

As he paces in cramped circles, over and over,
the movement of his powerful soft strides
is like a ritual dance around a centre
in which a mighty will stands paralysed.

Only at times, the curtain of the pupils
lifts, quietly -. An image enters in,
rushes down through the tensed, arrested muscles,
plunges into the heart and dies.

-- Rainer Maria Rilke (1875-1926)


Capturing the Treasures of the Snow

I have been struggling to follow Tom's shining example, in more ways
than poetic. I have discovered that composing poetry is somewhat of a
contrived effort, for me. :-)

After admiring Tom's smooth-flowing sonnets for some time, I decided to
try my hand at composing something in that discipline. Here's something
I contributed to the family discussion list, a few weeks ago --

Light snow has been sifting down for several days atop the Wastch
Plateau, laying down layers of downy fluff several feet deep, over a
hard-packed base. A beam of sunlight breaks through the afternoon
clouds and blowing spindrift, turning the surface of the meadow into a
sparkling sea of diamonds.

Above the trackless snow blanketing the broad meadow, a row of
towering spruces column up high into the sky. The blowing snowy dust
has covered the tree canopy, transforming each laden branch from
splendid green into a billowy white sculpture. Naked white aspens
barely contrast with the shady contours of drifted banks. This is a
nearly colorless world of black and white half-tones, shadow and

Across the meadow for a half mile or more, my tracks are mute evidence
of the lonely visit of an ungainly creature, floundering deeply and
making very slow progress. No other creatures venture out into this
land when it is locked in the deep winter. Trekking on snowshoes in
the deep powder is very much like wading. Every step sinks down
through several feet of insubstantial fluff. Most of the way today I
was buried up to my knees.

After the most recent storm, the snow depth exceeds 5 feet in most
places where it accumulates without drifting. The whole face of this
rugged land is smoothed over like a deep coating of pure white
frosting. Rocky ledges and declines are obscured. The transformation
is incredibly striking.


I spewed out these few paragraphs in the space of time it took to type

Since then I have been fighting to versify something that follows a
similar theme, but at least loosely following the rules for iambic
pentameter. To my surprise and dismay, it has been rather painful and
constrained. I find that my thoughts simply do not fall out in the same
fluid and spontaneous response. It seems like it has taken forever just
to sweat out several miserly lines. I became so discouraged with the
effort that I left it stranded in mid-stream.

Here is what has come out thus far --


Snowy drifts spread smooth o’er frozen splendor,
And sprinkle gems bright, far across the meadow,
As fair sun breaks, the winter storm concluding,    
Fiery sparks glint against slow deepening shadows.

Long sought, treasure in the tops of the mountains,
A fabled fortune for countless ages concealed,
The heavens in blessing pour forth precious fountains,
A legacy beyond price, only to few revealed.


I am terribly disappointed and frustrated with this. It does not say
what I intended when I set out. It took so long to hammer out that by
the time I arrived, I forgot what I came for. And the rhyming
constraint between alternate lines rather irritates me.

Aren't these petty and peevish complaints?

Tom, I bow to your superior talent. I don't understand how you do it.

---Jim Cobabe

Up Cheering

Time to dry your tears,

No one remembers your pain.

Laughing is better.

Jim Cobabe

Nightmare Haiku
Waking, in terror,
but a dream is only a dream --
cruel reality.
Jim Cobabe


To write a haiku,

I respectfully decline
your invitation.
Jim Cobabe

Slowly Fading Away

Caring dies the slowest death,
drudging along the dreary road
to personal extinction.

Thoughts take ever longer
to flower and blossom --
longer and longer,
the barren pauses intervene.

Blood stirs seldom into heat,
The heart grudgingly murmurs
its constant monotonous complaint,
but passions never kindle,
all joy ceases.

The man who wished to be,
loses his vain grasp
on one ambition after another.
And incrementally surrenders
to the endless array
of interminable

Slowly fading away
like the mucous streak
left by a passing snail --
an insignificant trace of slime
sliding silently
across the bleak dirty window
of life.

emptiness prevails,
the soul withers, 
deflated and flat,
despair and despondency
are the only feelings
left filling the void.
Jim Cobabe


Rising winds will shriek and howl like the evil hounds of hell, the real force of the gale palpable, tormenting, inescapable, frightful in magnitude. Bending into the frigid blasts will be the only way to keep upright. Step with utmost care, maintain constant vigil, expend every possible effort. If you should falter and lose balance, all will be instantly lost.

Streams of blizzard snow will accompany the blast, in fiery pellets of hard ice, pelting into your blinded eyes and frozen ears, roaring down the small of your back, frantic to snatch away your breath and freeze any incipient warmth that still lingers deep in the core of your fragile body. Sinuous drift will form long deep wavy dunes that block the trail and slow your already labored progress. Collectively the tiny beautiful flakes will create a deadly obstacle that will threaten to kill you without even noting your demise, and your wrecked shell of a body will only serve as food for merciless scavengers.

Temperatures will drop precipitously into the perilous range where your exposed skin freezes within minutes. You will ball your unfeeling fists into stubborn and defiant purpose, stomping rime-laden boots that are like ice blocks, trying in vain to force the circulatory pulse to distribute its lifegiving warmth from the center into the extremities. But the numbness progresses.

When all appears to be lost, you will sink to your knees, the chaotic world fading away from your consciousness. Drifting in that transcendent state, you will think you hear yourself speaking a prayer importuning for relief, deliverance, shelter, warmth, home. A blanket of peace will settle over your shoulders, and you will feel yourself being lifted up to float lightly over the snow.

The storm has passed.

Jim Cobabe

The Saga of Pink Floyd

Pink Floyd, the flamin’ pink flamingo bird,
he flew the coop today, to search the land.
Into the skies of blue, poor Floyd was lured,
enticed, away from friendly keepers hands.

Captivity he fled, to seek his kind,
compounding his own natural mistake.
How seldom has a bird been proved so blind –
he roosted on the marge of Great Salt Lake.

For birds of like, sad Floyd has waited long.
Alas, his flock in Africa abides.
He wastes his days composing lover’s songs,
high hopes on languishing good fortune ride.

Pink Floyd, how long his lakeside vigil keeps,
in unrequited love, the lone bird weeps.

(Pink Floyd is an African flamingo who escaped
from Tracy Aviary and is now occasionally seen
along the shores of Great Salt Lake.)

--Jim Cobabe

Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments, love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove.

O no, it is an ever-fixed mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wand'ring bark,
Whose worth's unknown, although his height be taken.

Love's not Time's fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle's compass come,
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom:

If this be error and upon me proved,
I never writ, nor no man ever loved.

--- Wm. Shakespeare

His Nightmare

Ascent from darkness 
into despair,
climbing from oblivion to light:
A transition -- a shocking awakening,
a rebirth,
from bland nothingness,
into cold bitter hell.

Expelled from the comforting shell
of non-experience,
raised up naked and defenseless
only to shrivel and wither
beneath the glaring harsh actinic stare
and intensely chilling illumination
of the full realization
of damning guilt.

The depth of horror,
tasks him
to desperate searching for escape,
longing for home,
hoping for a place of refuge,
pleading for mercy,
weary as the grave,
the prodigal son plods on.
But sad reality
intrudes at every turn
and relief is ever denied.

His home has ceased to exist,
refuge has fled,
and those that might have succored
have disappeared,
crumbled into dust,
and scattered in the wind
of desolation.

There is no rest,
no surcease,
neither victory nor loss,
not even surrender.

Just continuing without purpose
in a senseless savaging battle
with entropy,
inevitably the eventual victor.

Unremitting and relentless,
stupefying pain
colors every perception
blood red.

His worthless tears
continually melt away
leaving only emptiness
and no hope.

Jim Cobabe

Walking on the edge
Walking out on the thin edge
A most precarious balancing act.
Rocky chasms on either side
patiently await the smallest misstep.

There is no end in sight,
but the never-ending battle against the heights,
ever driven to conquer the next craggy ridge,
only to ascend high enough to reveal the next,
and the next.

Prolonging the struggle,
step after painful step,
he wavers and teeters along the verge,
halting and fearful.

Safety lines discarded,
halters of security thrown aside,
unroped, alone, vulnerable,
he forges ahead
in the ultimate danger and freedom
of total self-determination,
far beyond all hope of rescue.

Visions of splendor
open out to the far horizons. 
Blazing sun,
massive granite,
mountains arching to the blue dome.
Cool clean winds
whisper down the slopes and canyons.

Lured ever upward by the entrancing beauty,
he scorns the peril of the towering heights.


At the moment of the last critical mistake,
as he pitches headlong over the precipice to certain destruction,
he finally finds the briefest possible moment of peace


At the moment of reaching the ultimate goal,
he searches the skyline, confused, for the next rampart.
Then, realizing that the summit is won and the trial is finished,
he opens his arms to embrace the sun,
and is taken up
in fiery clouds of glory. 

Jim Cobabe


We should feel joy, should we not?
When Heavenly Father gathers home one of his own.
Tears remember the face of a loved one--gone, gone.
We await the bright dawning, morning of the first resurrection.
How long, ere all will be called forth, restored, united?

--Jim Cobabe

Resolution of Tears

Sadness beyond words.
Mourning the great loss.
In an act beyond understanding,
my beloved brother ended his life.

Alas, my brother!

In the throes of deranged thoughts,
he thought he was beyond help,
that his troubles could never be wiped away.

He felt that he had no friends,
as he saw the people he loved draw away,
and everything he had devoted himself to denied.

He died alone, with great suffering,
in the ultimate pain,
unable to withstand any longer
the betrayal of a bitter ruined life
and the ceaseless punishment of living without hope.

We wept.

Then, in a vision of comfort and reassurance,
amidst a choir of heavenly voices,
we saw him, my brother,
in the company of our loved ones
who had passed before.

His suffering is ended.
His tears are wiped away.

Now the challenge is to go on,
enduring to the end,
that we might at our appointed time
pass through the portals of death
and join in the loving joyful embrace
of those we now so miss.

--Jim Cobabe

Sharing the High

I so much wanted to take you there.  To share the experience would be 
such a joy.

Up to the soaring heights above the beautiful Anthony Lakes resort, to 
witness the wonders of the towering green trees of the forest, the deep 
drifted snows, the blazing blue above, billowing with massive looming 
black clouds moving quickly in the winds, the jagged snow-crusted rocky 
crags and high valleys spanning out from these great peaks of the 
Elkhorn Mountains, across so many sweeping miles.

Alas, the day is long past when you could go.  It is too far to travel.  
It is a hard climb.  You’ll have to close your eyes and imagine the trek 
from where you are.

Starting at the parking lot, donning the snowshoes and  layers of winter 
clothing, preparing against gusty winds and new snow yet falling at 
these lofty elevations.  Though the temperatures are mild in the valley 
far below, here it hovers just above freezing.  Gusty winds send the 
chill penetrating through layers of warm clothes.  Fingers and toes are 
quickly numbed.  It is better to keep moving, to keep warm.

The snow here is hard-packed and crusty.  The sharp blades of the 
snowshoe crampons bite through the ice.  Very grippy climbing, not at 
all like floundering through Utah powder snow.

Setting off,  skirting around the shore of the tiny still-frozen lake, 
following the rushing stream as it climbs winding southward through the 
still-deep drifts, threading through the tall trees.  Brilliant sunshine 
alternates with dark fast-moving clouds, sending down brief showers that 
pepper the ground with fiercely wind-blown snow pellets that impact like 
little white bullets.  The trail climbs steeper and steeper with every 

Occasionally the stream makes a surprise appearance, but mostly it 
tunnels far beneath the snow.  Standing above where there are hidden 
waterfalls under the icy mantle,  the rumble and roar of the secretly 
tumbling cascade shakes through your feet.

At the shore of one of the small mountain lakes, a man on skis comes 
suddenly out from the trees, gracefully swooshing down off the incline, 
with his two dogs in company.  He stops to chat for a moment, explaining 
with apparent frustration that one of the retrievers, just a silly 
puppy, will not keep out of his way, and has tangled with his skis more 
than once that morning.

Higher up, during a prolonged rest, two other hikers pass by on the way 
to the summit of nearby Gunsight Butte.  They also have brought a dog 
along.  They say they were following the snowshoe tracks all the way up 
from Anthony Lake.  Faster hikers, they pass by and take over the lead, 
leaving a trail of steps up the steeper parts of the snowy slope, 
marking the path to the saddle, which is today’s goal.

After miles of slowly climbing, reaching the end of one high hanging 
mountain valley, only to discover that it opens up into the next, and 
the next, each cirque-formed amphitheater smaller than the last.  
Finally a turn to the east, and the summit ridge is in sight.

Climbing carefully up the last few precarious slopes that are steep and 
frightfully exposed.  A precipitous tumble off the edge would not soon 
be stopped.  There are only a few sparse and wind-twisted trees 
scattered around the end of this high-walled rock bowl.

On the saddle ridge, the most incredible views all around.

High above, to the north and south, massive granite mountain crags 
piercing the blue sky, wreathed in blowing snow and misty storm clouds, 
higher than anything else around.

A place for magnificent eagles to soar.

Sweeping vistas to the east and west.  As the veil of brooding clouds 
occasionally lifts, views that span more than fifty miles can be 
glimpsed.  It is like standing on the top of the world.

To the west, ridge after ridge of forested mountains fade away into the 
distance.  Far below, the tiny city of Granite, an old mining town of 
former glory, with a few windows that still twinkle in a beam of 

Eastward, the green fields of Baker Valley spread across to the horizon, 
which then lifts up to display the two complementary ranges of snowy 
mountains, the nearby Eagle Cap range, and farther away, across the 
Hell’s Canyon of the Snake River, looms the Seven Devils range.

Pausing at the high perch only for moments, to take in all the 
surrounding views.  The wind whistles briskly across the saddle, blowing 
hard little snow pellets that sting when they hit on your face.  
Thrilling, but cold, very cold.

Turning around to descend across all the slow laboring steps climbing 
up, the trip back down takes only a fraction of the time.  Leaping 
strides span across yards, skimming down the steep slope, now with all 
the help of gravity.

Back at the car, peel off the sweat-soaked stuff and crank the heater 
up.  Then back down the winding mountain road, returning to 

--Jim Cobabe

Climbing Paradise Ridge

I owned the tops of the mountains today. No others tracked the smooth white surface of the cold, clean snow. The mountain heights and I held our secret soul tryst, a chaste and joyous virtue only open to the lone and lonely.

I traverse the high passes, seeming so near to the pale blue sky, bracing against the fierce onslaught of the merciless freezing north wind. Howling gusts sweep up gritty blasts of icy snow grains in a ground blizzard, below a dark horizon troubled by passing storm clouds. As I struggle upward, the icy wind steals my breath away with each passing burst.

In the shelter of the deep shady canyon, I pause before tall green firs swaying and sighing as the force of the gale funnels up the slope, the wind whistling and moaning through the tossing boughs like the keening of mourners. The feet of the great trees stand deeply buried beneath the drifts.

Laboring to slowly climb the steep slope, bundled heavily against the freezing cold, my body is soon dripping with sweat. As the moisture accumulates under my hat and across the back of my neck, a rime of ice quickly forms around my head, into the simulation of a frosted white helmet.

I stop at the summit for a brief respite, in the lee of a swarm of boulders. I comb the ice out of my hair. Over the top of the broad peak, bare crusted snow is sculptured by the wind. The blowing snow appears to form sinuous snakes that writhe and coil and dance like living creatures. A sort of white noise, the continuous susurration of millions of snow grains skittering and slithering along, masks the roaring of the wind and creates a deep dynamic silence. Pressure against my back builds and ebbs from the force of the wild wind.

I have overstayed my welcome. The wind intensifies and the snow turns into heavier pellets that plaster across the front of my jacket and trousers, until I start to resemble an animate snowman. I hasten down the front side of the mountain, and as I pass, drifting snow quickly obliterates the traces of my passage.

--Jim Cobabe

Snowshoes on Rampart Ridge


Bitter cold penetrates with a chill that cannot be dispelled, as we waddle along the trail, bundled in thick layers of clothing, clumsy burdensome snowshoes stealing all grace from our walk. Steaming clouds of frosty breath trail behind. Crusty snow emits weird squeaks and groans as our toes dig in.

We stop for a breather, at a vista overlooking the valley. Night in the deep woods is silent and brooding dark, swathed in a blanket of snow. Nature's array is spread forth before us in the moonlight, hundreds of acres of evergreen spruces and firs, looming black and secretive in the still night air, climbing the hillsides and standing stern and motionless sentinels along the ridge tops.

Crossing a thick stand of brush, we stumble across a resting elk, who springs up in alarm at the disturbance. Which of us was frightened more? With sweeping strides and massive power, plunging headlong through the undergrowth at a thundering gallop, he escapes from our threat, and is gone from view almost before we realize what we are looking at. We stand there for a moment in amazed silence, gaping at each other like wondering fools.
Later on, crossing our trail like a silent wraith, a red fox flashes by and disappears into the chaparral. From time to time we hear a great owl, his muffled query floating across the dark forest, as he glides through the night sky, scanning the snow for prey.

We are the strangers here. This is no longer our world, we find no warmth in nature. We have too long allowed ourselves to be enticed away, wrapped in the insulating comfort of technology. In our complacence, we have been robbed of natural rapport with the forest. Now we stumble as aliens through this seemingly stark wilderness, interlopers for an hour, feeling as if we could barely survive a few miles trek through this unfriendly locale. To every creature of the forest, we are a threat and a foe. We don't belong.

In the end, we circle back to the car, arriving in relief back at civilization, anxiously looking forward to the comforts of home, and a long hot shower.

--- Jim Cobabe

Streams of life carry us gently forward,
winds and currents drive,
toward the ultimate destination,
which is also the primal source.

While we mourn the loss of company of loved ones passed on,
and mark their crossing over with sadness,
our faith whispers of what great joy awaits the successful navigator,
coming to port, to rest and reward,
at the end of long voyaging.

Jim Cobabe