Sunday, March 3, 2013

The Night Valley

Cold, says the dog, inching closer.
Warm fur is welcome at my crouched side.
Yes, my hand reassures her, it is cold, that's ok.
The night's mere ghosts of breezes and the holly bush
within which we sit, poised, silent,
make shivering thankfully unnecessary.
Our feet settle in the thick powdered snow and we are still.

Frigid-brittle air carries the sounds of
groans and retorts of ice settling in the swamp,
pine boughs breaking as they cannot bend when brushed by passers-by,
crystalline nearly-imagined footsteps of voles.

Hunt, asks the dog, unmoving but bristled,
there are deer there, now right there, please
The deer step, one foot, another, until
even I can smell their pelts, like twine and lichen and the musk of a very old sweater,
their piss, like earthworms in last year's leaves, their scat, like fertile soil,
their breath, ghosting around their nervous nostrils, like crushed jewelweed,
sensing but not sure as they pass that their (possible) deaths sit crouched, sentinel.

Tonight we are not hunters. Up the valley a warm bed awaits us,
a refrigerator that hums, full of food, lights,
my wife, soft asleep under a quilt made by my great-grandmother,
allow us to be merely less than animal, and witness.

Moon, notes the dog, singing softly,
her eyes disks reflecting in ghostly titanium
the illumination, not possibly an object in the sky
but a precise cut-out in the crisp matte darkness,
a hole through which we see, blinded, an even colder, brighter realm.
Gone, set behind the hill in a moment (possibly I slept)
removing its blue-white version of night vision, to dark hush.

Apparent now are the stars, vertiginous slow-reeling backdrop
providing sight only in contrast to the silhouettes of trees,
limbs frozen now in their stretch upwards, intertwining,
the ragged black edge of ridge line and valley's edge below.

Light, sees the dog, unlimbering,
as the stars ghost imperceptibly away into darkest
blue leaking upwards from beyond the valley,
the forest foreground rendered in matte mute winter grays,
colors emerging first blues (snow shadows, water) then greens (our holly, pines),
and only as our six feet trudge crunching up the steep edge of the valley
the rare specks of reds (poison berries, bittersweet).

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