The reedy knife-edged clouds, spatter
A benign snowfall; a storm moves
Menacingly slow above the mountain.
At a glance you grasp peace, power
And ferocity simultaneously. After
Dawn on the rise, white frost paints
Dun-colored sedge, to expose elk tracks
And bear scat as I trace an old Samish
Path to flatter terrain. A field develops
Into meadow upon meadow and stretches
Outward to an uphill incline of apple
And cherry orchards—trees bare skeletons,
Begging to be covered in an eiderdown
Of white. In a *terroir* part sand and gravel,
I stand among ancient stones like cobbles
Tossed by gods unknown into the old river
Bed, soil like sand, in between dried moss,
An archeology of a defeated archipelago.
Where have the beavers gone, the pelts
That made mountain men wealthy, weary,
Yet terrifying? Where are the branch bridges?
And damn constructs of animals so practiced
They never spoke, only barked to one another?
The black deer tracks lay bare in ice forms
And shadows among scruffy and untidy,
Buttery maples lean anxiously across water;
Gone is the penetrating golden light
That gleams on the stream, shriveled
And shrived through in which the torpid fish
Still swim. Left are ripples, eddying dead leaves—
Cottonwoods, aspens and alders now naked,
Not even a promise of warmth in the darling
Crimson dogwood. I cut my gaze
And the cinches tethering the bodies
The oldest horse at the edge of the field
That borders a railroad won’t return
To her stall until an old patriarch who
Rode her for two decades takes the reins
Himself, speaking to her in soft Romani.
Some beasts conceal fear better than others.
The last time he fetched this one, he feared
She knew somehow he’d tried to sell her.
He failed to get the price sought, so returned
Her to fields where she paws the wildflowers.
In the lateness of the day in the makeshift
Courtyard of an encampment, the old
Man watches ravens plummet between
Rows of hickory and oak trees, cawing
Angrily, as if Elijah refused their bread.
As he descends the field now, he fades
For a moment into the shadows of trees,
Holding his hat against the rising wind.
The sun inches westward beyond a shoal
Of storms as his wife emerges from the house.
She steadies a chipped decanter that holds
Fistfuls of daisies picked from the field
Ravens now halo between the tridents
Of distant lightning, a sky under which
Horses, like dark fire, are circling.