Special Guides » The Poetry Issue

Upper Thompson River in Late Summer

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I.

There is a gash in the sky.
Westward, a weather system
moving in. The wind has picked up:
rain or a dry thunderstorm. The sunset lilac
from fires in Idaho. A chopper cuts
the silence, a lazy sprinkler too.

On the highway, a cow moose patrols
her just-slain calf. Driving 70, I can still see
the babe is all legs. The mother false-skitters
at my passing, but stays.

II.

I have moved into the pioneer cabin by the river. Banging screen door,
the place smells of dust and tobacco. Cattle inspect then lean against
my car. A grey tabby shoots from under the porch. On the steps, the
sun-bleached skull of an animal. Last night the coyotes got to yipping
across the valley in stereo.

III.

My bones have memorized the rattle of gate-crossing.
If I caved, I didn’t know. Saddled and resigned. Held

my breath the night a mountain lion took down
a doe before me. Amplified sounds of ripping,

no wailing. Silhouettes of ponderosa pines skirting
the pasture. Vanilla coming off the bark, still warm.