This time of year what’s left of light

begins to flash behind Red Peak

at four on a frigid afternoon


I brake the car on the snow packed road

rattling over an old stone bridge

to watch elk feeding in an aspen grove

stripped of leaves and filling with snow flakes,

the bull and cows, young and unafraid

looking up from the last of fallen gold,

so lean and muscular and perfect in their hide

they seem to me defiant


Ranchers say elk know the habits of hunters,

the time and place of hunting season

They will go into a meadow no man can hunt,

stand fearless on the shoulder of the highway,

nostrils flexing forest wisdom


I’ve sent 50 caliber tracers through the dark

to faceless men, seen bodies curled into themselves,

made a vow never again to kill

yet wonder how elk ignore the rumm and roar

cars make grinding a curve, idling at a standstill

They turn now and then to watch me,

a silhouette framed in an open car window who’s

chanced upon raw truth in naked haunches


I would sit here until true dark

but uphill she waits in the house

we built where then there were no houses


Soon, the small herd will leap fences

in the rush of sex and snow and sorrow

as we once felt the soft wet flakes

melting through our hair