On the brink of the feathered chest
Does the moose rise happy from its bed of wet grass
kept dry overnight by a 10-gallon heart
excited for breakfast of weeds and bark
anticipating an afternoon in the muskeg bubble bath
some mould-draped camel in a doppelgänger version of a desert?
And what of owl’s moments of awkward vulnerability
Driven from its perch by a murder of spade-feathered crows
out of daylight’s raw divinity into timber’s cooling geometry
to sleep, three lids shut, beneath the afternoon’s shaded dream,
this creaturly genius to inhabit the shadow’s hill?
The longer I camp next to the river the more altered I become
by the same feeling I used to follow through the young blond grass
Trout blood Caesar—to derive the river’s spunk
nocturnal traceability of phantoms in an underbrush spook symphony
the mute coming and going of big birds, my heart jacked
when a great grey glides wingbeatless through the windless
cold glow of backchannel, to star in this nocturne
zeroing in, descending the wall of air to motionless branch. Up close.
Me, the noise-maker, a hoax of pre-recorded mating calls
conspicuous in bright survey vest, silhouetted by big dipper.
Shift done, lying on my foamy, I am more aware than I’ve ever been
of the barred owl’s screech sequence, a chaos of vocalization;
the coyotes too on the benchlands, their snap-yappy crescendo
mocks the click and clunk of the crew’s clumsy imitation devices
Hooked up to our megaphones, again inciting the crows to riot
cycling in their own vectors, symbol then not symbol
intermittent epiphanies. Wisdom’s chicken-legged kerfuffle
sparrows and camp robbers swarm to spoil the hawk’s feast
and the spade trumps the crown in the climactic hour
before the hermit thrush can begin weaving a song of glacial water threads
The improv twinkle of its notes, the swirls of its own vocal stream
and the song sparrow twitters, then interjects into the flock’s fugue
a wa-ching, like a sword unsheathed from the sunrise.
Then another sunset, the owl’s facial disc positioned to reign
tracking the vibrations of something small that is scurrying
the length of a fallen aspen, to avoid the devouring for another day
Crafty and opportunistic wisdom will take a goose in its talons,
will tell a tall tale of itself and slum a season in a used squirrel’s nest,
in the beak-dug dugouts of sapsuckers or its fellow’s old abode
knowledge—brute, flat-faced knowledge—is on the run.
Even my wisdom joins that other part of me that is fading
that changes character, rotates its head like a loose faucet.