On the brink of the feath­ered chest

Prairie Fire - - TABLE OF CONTENTS -

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.

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