Or, Perhaps You Have
Morning, early September. Still dark,
a proper chill reminding me how
short our summers really are, how
much good can come from a thermos
of coffee. We’re sitting silent in the
truck, the ticks of the cooling engine
mix with the Land’s yawn and stretch
in preparation for dawn.
Our ears become keen enough to hear
a nearby stream find its way back to
a pond we can’t yet see, enough to hear
the forest floor yield to the feet of spruce
grouse, pine marten, the falling bits of seeds
and cones from the mouths of squirrels.
The blue-black gives way to grey
as daylight makes its way over the edge
of North America, reaches this island
half an hour before the rest of Turtle
Island, rouses the dark mass of antler
bone and fur from its grassy bed,
watches it trot its way out onto bog.
How to step into this lineage, to write
about an animal integral to this island’s
identity yet so alien it had to be introduced,
twice? To write this is to graft breath and
marrow to pure rock and recognize this bond
as real love, as more than just good enough,
to accept this come-from-away as family,
as lover, as one of our own.
Back to the bog—my mother takes
a deep breath, raises the iron sight
to the spot just behind the front leg,
those first few ribs encasing the lungs,
everything vital. Knowing that to take
this life to feed your own is, still, an act
of love, reverence, an act so full of risk
of getting it wrong, to miss the point,
miss the shot, the weighted responsibility
of enacting this death with a good heart—
the soft bog cradles the animal to rest.
Maybe you’ve never seen so much
blood, felt the heat of a living thing
radiate from itself to thaw your numbed
fingers, feel its energy slowly transfer,
purest of intimacies, from its earthly
form into yours. Or, perhaps you have—
and you’re as lost for the right words
as I am, fumbling to relay such immediacy,
Published online February 27 2020.
Douglas Walbourne-Gough is a poet and mixed/adopted Mi’kmaq from Corner Brook, Newfoundland. He holds an MFA in creative writing and is currently a creative writing PhD student. His first collection, Crow Gulch (2019), was published by Goose Lane Editions’ icehouse poetry imprint. For more about Douglas, visit walbournegough.com.