May 28, 2016 by Laird
One morning as a man and dog traveled an
Old dirt road through the mountains,
An elk emerged from the briars
Among the ponderosa pine.
Scarred black muzzle, lop-ears, gray flanks.
Her eyes were also black
As the cold ancient stars and the ever dilating
Space between them.
The dog barked and strained at the leash,
Primitive blood recalling horns winded,
A thousand savage chases.
The elk regarded man and dog,
Fearless and innocent;
Her blood recalled nothing of the spear.
She ambled along barbwire, hooves kicking up the ashes
Of last summer’s fire
Until she found a gap and darted into the pines;
Fleeting shadow, always west.
Years grind the mountains.
His wife’s photograph
Reminds him of the great inferno
That scorched the cliffs of the valley
And of the black ash that curls in its wake,
How dust lies upon dead roots of shelled trees
Waiting to fall to splinters when the wind comes down
Out of the north in October;
The dust will remain for generations.
Walking toward her means crossing scorched earth
The truth of it is,
Bitterness is green sap flowing to the wound.
Sometimes he dreams he is the elk;
Thunder outside his tent
Is the report of a hunter’s rifle.
He shambles, then flies,
Euphoric with terror and longing,
Beyond the break in the barbed fence.
Pastures and hills and sky
Farther than he’ll ever have or know.