Cow and Calf

For the third time in three years,
walking in the wilderness,
I surprise two moose,
a cow and a calf.

The cow complains, moves on
with a bovine grunt
calling the little one.

Her hair is edged with black,
the brown on her flanks so deep
you could drown in it.
She’s as tall as a draft horse and fast:
if she wanted to,
she could cover the ground between us
before I could stand up.

So I sit,
feeling a pinprick of guilt
for having intruded /

and yet,
how can I take my place in the wild,
how can I be — what’s the phrase? —
a good animal,
without lightly disturbing it?
Nothing here wants me passive:
the forgotten relation come home
to mope and grieve,
the one who sits at the edge of the fire,
the one no one speaks to,
not the sky
not the rock
not the water and the water hemlock,
and not the bat-faced calf
his eyes fixed on mine
reluctant to leave.

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