My mother never should have let us play
in the deep woods that spun and twisted behind our house.
Sometimes we wandered for miles
during that time of year
when the grizzlies sauntered from hibernation
sleepily impatient with hunger;
too close to where we collected things–
their fetid slyness heavy and unseen behind the waking evergreens of spring.
Once, I dropped an armful of dead branches
upon hearing the winter-induced intoxication of
the Mountain Queen herself.
She shuffled and heaved the unsteadiness of her trunk forward;
an eager cub followed inoffensively in her prints.
My brother and I left our bodies behind
we ran so hard.
And then other times,
the woods were silent for years.
Even the elegance of a buck tiptoeing on snow-dampened leaves
did nothing to disturb the stillness.
We were often found crouched by the rotted wood of an old corral
investigating petrified prints of worms and shells when our sister came to find us.
My sister was always beautiful when she was coming to find us;
the flush in her cheeks and the tangled urgency to the red weaves of her hair
brought human life into the world our imaginings allowed us to belong.