Everything feels like an elegy. I’ve heard, and felt, this sentiment often these past few weeks. When I think of the bears, sleeping in their dens, dreaming of spring lilies. When I walk down our road, and glimpse pheasants in the bare hedges, watch flickers puff out their spotted feathers between birch branches, pass the remains of a fallen buck, sharp ribs poking through his tattered hide. Even the river, winding along its icy banks, brings easy tears.
To be sure, recent events have rendered these feelings acute, aided too by the fact that winter is dying before spring’s first breath… but if I’m honest, I’ve always sort of felt this way about the world. Not to say I don’t feel equal measures of wonder and celebration, because I surely do, just not so prominently on this day.
Anyway, I haven’t written much poetry lately, but I just came across an old poem of mine about swift foxes that ran in High Desert Journal a decade ago, and it fit my mood. But see, there is even hope here. After years of endangerment, and considerable conservation efforts, their populations are now more stable, at least in portions of their historic range less threatened by habitat loss.
At least for now.
From knoll’s crest she watches
The prairie again, with those long
Egyptian eyes that slant just a little,
Just enough to fix nobility
In their unblinking grace.
Small as a cat and quiet too,
We call her swift, call her rare.
A title with too many edges,
That matches only
Her forty-two pointed teeth,
And none of the softness
In her buff yellow fur, sweet
Between the bluestem,
Capped in an inky tail spot.
On the ocean of the plains
She speeds beneath the shrieking
Night, tossing mice through the air
Like dull falling comets, breaking
Against pups’ mouths stretched wide.
From the edge of a smooth-hole den
She is always listening
For the next howl, hungry coyote cousin,
Whose pups have bigger stomachs.
She can’t hear her prairie falling away
Beneath roads and cattle hooves,
But I think she knows
She isn’t fast enough.
— Kathleen Yale
* Published in High Desert Journal, Issue Number Three, Spring 2006