March comes and water moves,
The river, ponds, brooks open.
On snowshoes this is the last week
You’ll hike down these banks of
Rotten snow, the last week bridges
Of ice will be there to criss-cross
Down stream, the last week a
Deer carcass will be pinned between
Rocks and white water spray through
The white of her skull — the runoff
Will let her go, or break her to pieces —
You’re aware of this where you step.
Pools of water swirl 5 feet deep,
Maybe her bones will lay down in the
Sand and white pebbles here, it is
The last week to think of any of this.
Beneath your feet of oblong ash wood
And softened leather you sense the newness
Of life — hide has slipped all winter off
The body, it is time to go places.
for Janine Pommy Vega
Without a sound
I made myself walk
A day in the sun
The thin pale grass breeze
An axe along to trim dead limbs
Moving beneath pines
I stopped when I saw its wings
Spread straight for me and
Grips itself 10 yards away
With no idea we were face to face
Black water of the eyes opening and seeing
Spotting easily what wasn’t right
In a skiff of wind
She dropped and floated
Low to the ground
Lost my eye in blending flight
With feathers like the woodland
Some sound outside has raised our heads
Made us look into the eyes of one another.
You by the kerosene lamp glowing into your
Face and hair, knitting needles down in your lap.
I pull on high boots and wool shirt
Walk out to the dogs on their chains
Muzzles sniffing to the hillside.
We wait, beneath a clear wash of moonlight,
For sure we’re heard something and we’ll freeze
To hear it again — there, low bark, speaking from
A darkness left in the woods, excites the malamute
To circle his hut, piss on the pine he’s tied under.
No stir or movement up there, though these barks are
Moving across the face of the night, striking out
From some loss or pain, wearing down a trail.
I leave the dogs whining to go to the river
Rushing deep and flashing white light of the sky.
This is the clearest night yet for October
Frost webs open ground
Deer everywhere must be fattening on mushed apples.
A howl, now straight across from me —
I can’t see the bear but know it’s a bear,
The call it makes fills that body.
In a moment it will be farther away
Gone back into the hairs of darkness.
I hear nothing more, as if I’ve heard enough —
Now the middle of the night.
WHERE RIVERS MEET
(Mad River Press)