Friday, November 26, 2010

Well, it's about time you showed up!!

I've been AWOL from here and would like to be able to report that I've been climbing Everest or mushing a dog sled across the slushy north shores of Alaska or even on an extended hike in the Bighorn mountains or Cloud Peak Wilderness. I'd even like to write that I hiked from Denver to Casper to visit Al and Les, but none of that would be true. I'd write some of those things, but I'd hate for any of you to think I was a politician.

The truth is, I have not the slightest idea of where my time has gone since my last post. I think I've been busy, but I don't have much to show for that time. I did attend a two-day poetry class that was wonderful. And I've written a haiku almost every day to share with a poet friend, Chris Valentine, up in Birney, Montana. And I've gotten a few poems written and sent out for possible publication, but most of my time seems to have been eaten by the Thanksgiving turkey or the tooth fairy.

I did write one poem about the bison out at West Bijou, pictures and descriptions of which I've posted here before. I showed the poem to the director at the Plains Conservation Center, and she asked me to donate it to PCC for their use. So, I did just that. I have given them the right to publish the poem in print and electronic media any time they want. I'll include the poem in this blog to share it with my friends. I will not try to get this poem published anywhere and I'm letting PCC use it how they want. Perhaps the poem might encourage some of you to visit PCC and especially the West Bijou site that has the bison herd.

Visiting the bison herd 
I pull the wagon up a dusty ridge 
to where a herd of sixty bison graze.
Massive hulks of brown surround the truck 
and snap up cookies that we throw to them.
I hear their snorting and their tearing of 
the grasses with their teeth and thumping hooves 
that dance and pirouette to guard their turf. 
Their feints and sprints surprise me with their grace. 

The calves that just a dozen weeks ago 
were copper colored now are dusky brown,
the light absorbing brown of adulthood,
with horns that show as tiny stumps of gray. 
They frisk and play until a grouchy cow 
snorts and butts them with her massive head.
They scamper off but soon resume their play.

Further up the ridge, a quarter mile,
I see the herd's ascendant bull, grazing 
by himself. He does not pay attention  
to us or bison cookies that we throw. 
He grazes now to gather strength he lost 
in mating with so many cows and chasing 
lesser bulls who also tried to mate. 
He has to eat or die a freezing death.

I look across the valley to the ridge 
on which we found Archaic artifacts, 
arrow heads, pottery shards, and flints 
and other signs that native denizens 
long ago used that ridge to watch 
for the dark herds that covered many miles. 
Then in my mind I'm on that ridge and watch
with other hunters, pray expectantly 
to see the season's first approaching herd.  
We first see dust then feel the shaking ground, 
and now the rumbling herd comes into view. 
I feel the hunter's joy and thankfulness. 
Our shaman's dancing to Hotoa'e gods
was heard. We know tomorrow that the tribe
will celebrate a welcome bison feast, 
no longer hungry from a winter's fast. 

A cow in front of me whirls and butts 
a frisky calf and yanks me back in time.
I see again the cows, the calves, the bull.
How could the Cheyenne not admire the grace 
and power of the herds that fed their tribe, 
revere them as the spirit of the plains.

Hotoa'e (Ho to wa') – Cheyenne for bison

© 2010 Art Elser

I'll try to be more prompt with my next post, but you know how difficult it is to get a wifi signal in the Antarctica or in Tibet.