When I left the mountains,
there was a space in the pit of my belly
that thought it couldn’t be filled
with things like the things at my back:
the mule deer in the falcate sun,
sideways on a morning hill;
footprints of an elk and her calf
pressing into a natural spring
before the soft earth was hardened;
the nighttime yelp of coyotes and rabbits—
not always a genial sound
but a reminder of the wild world at work.
Then down from the mountain the prairie spoke:
Dear, sweet woman,
her voice that rose with lavender,
you are mistaken.
And then she gave to me the madness of birds
—all of them—
they dart before the afternoon rains, and they are pendulums through
the sky when monsoons bounce above the ground.
They spin their heads with brightness and warbling and unpeel the skin of
She gave me the Jays in the willows and the Killdeer along lakes and rivers—
who jump through irrigation ditches with pecking, poking beaks; too quick on
the shell of a Snapping Turtle and too fast along a blade of grass to make it
She gave me the Lark Bunting’s plateaued nest and unspoiled white down; the
prairie notes of a Red-winged blackbird.
She gave me their wings—brilliant colonies and communities of airborne
partners unending and saturating that same space in my belly;
mocking my incertitude
through their flight.