Occurrence report from the mixed woods

I can light a Red Bird match on the back of this netbook, hold it to the Monte Cristo in my teeth while reading Bronwen Wallace’s poetry, sit semi-clothed in a screen tent sipping tea that’s two-hours cooled while writing this very sentence.

I can sit here in stillness and listen to the leaves of aspen—and should the stirring reach further down—the leaves of hazelnut and dogwood, sing in shifting currents of air.

And I can hear dry grass riffled, and this years clover, horsetail and harebell suddenly shimmy together, and be fooled by a customary thought of squirrels, until a branch breaks and two brown shapes emerge on my trail and the three of us lock eyes—a triangle of trepidation, astonishment, and curiosity—a dangerous trinity of primordial desire…until the earth tilts by a degree and breaks the spell and the shapes spin and clear dead logs by mighty leaps and vanish in these trees.

Only then do I find that my feet have turned ungulate and have dug into the mat of loam and fallen twigs where ants carry bodies of insects aloft; and only then do I see the thick brown hair growing the length of my body and by degrees feel myself pitched forward and pressed down on four legs—pent and ready to spring.

And in an ecstatic burst I find myself flying through the door of the tent to race through the understory and join cow and calf in wild betrothal. And as I run I feel the air rush hot over a high shoulder hump and along wet flanks and feel the sweat run down a pendulous muzzle and over broad black nostrils, and down a massive neck to drop past a dewlap. By folds in time I am, and am not, within, and without, this great rufous shape. But already garlands of buffalo berry and chokecherry and wild rose caught in my flat antlers bare testament to an implacable vow.

And what if I had reached my wild-mate and her offspring? By necessity I would have joined them forever in the boreal forests, thickets, bogs and brule.

julycabinOccasionally I would visit a cabin, alone, and see her residents looking sadly through fall windows where last they saw my sculpturesque form stand in the fen. My choice now sealed away like a tick beneath my hide, I would stand there in a tawny-shaped fog of memory until at last the cabin would be empty and the visits would stop and I would know only the subtle change of pelage discerning the depth of snow to come, the rut running miles of veins, the hoarse bellows, the shedding and growing of monstrous palmate antlers.

In winter I would tramp down a circle and sit in silence through long nights. And perhaps on a crystal cold night I would dream the shape of a woman—which would be lost in the immediacy of ice forming beneath my belly. Then borne aloft by the breaking of a late dawn, I would rise by the heat in my blood, blood that knows the intimacy of diminishing days.

How close I was, and by what effort I returned to finish my tea and to break open the stub of this cigar and give the remaining leaf back to the warm ground beneath my bare feet.


  1. Wowzers, you ARE bison! This poem viscerally connects me to my spirit animal and inspires me to create her/him in large format, with charcoal and collage.
    And your poetry inspires me to write!
    Gratitude for the poetic and visual art inspiration, Stephen.

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