In the tall grass or the brush under the trees
at the edge of my vision danced a stray dog,
an outlaw glowering over unmindful hens
and goats lolling maternally, milky-uddered nearby the barn.
Then my neighbor shot it snacking on his rooster.
The dog got away but was wounded.
I went after it, climbing the recently logged hillside
behind my house, which brush thickly hemmed in.
Don't know why the chase. I had to, didn't I?
By late afternoon the declining sun, slanting
through the brush, and the trail of delicate blood
littering the snow blinded me. Pissed off, crashing around,
I lost my way.
The dog likely circled back from his darkness
to watch me get lost.
I have heard that predatory animals
do that when they are about to die:
circle round to lie low and watch the hunter.
Between patches of barren ground,
my tracks shown faintly on the icy snow.
There was no horizon, no larger orientation.
Not fear but frustration abruptly moved me.
When I bent under a limb too quickly,
my glasses fell off. I kneeled,
found them after a desperate instant:
crawled over the frame, crunching out the lenses.
Half-blind in the dropping light,
I sat on a stump and laboriously snapped them back.
Though sighted now, still nothing without
to instruct me how to find myself.
I found within a calm nothing from another time.
My people are soldiers, loggers, construction workers,
many times independent-minded survivors.
And nearby without was a wild breathing,
soft, barely distinguishable from the wind's icy sighs,
a pitiful sniffling, as of life expiring.
I waited. Doing nothing is a sort of something.
The cold was ever bolder.
Then I had to move. I had no choice.
Climbing out of a gully, I wandered
onto the road to my house
as much by accident as I got lost by accident.
The dog howled through the violent night,
ceased before dawn.
Next day I went up again, looking.
I'd love to find some fool to blame.
Now it is dark again, and still…
How unfair to shrug and blame
the simple facts of existence!