Blood stains on my hunting boots
Of buttermilk grassland roved
By long gone herds of pronghorn.
Stabbing like a prickly pear,
Festering, still woven into my being.
Where I killed my first deer,
Swallowed up by that night's flash flood.
Leaving veins in the earth filled with doe blood.
Sweat mixing with stinging sulfur.
Skinning a pronghorn in the light of a flickering campfire.
Starless skies threaten rain.
Away from the swelling water.
Our voices swallowed by the raging creek’s cry.
Dawn shed light across the gouged land.
Awakening a restlessness, a hunger. Just as
Dry dirt need roots to hold it down,
I want roots of lupine and wild wheat.
Prone on a plateau, chewing stalks,
Singing to the Chinook, as deaf as a pronghorn.
Waiting for a shot to ring up the gully,
For the work to begin. I do not wait alone.
A small hawk perches on the exposed ridge of a boulder,
Staring intently into my eyes.
His irises blaze amber in the buttermilk landscape.
His pupils, dark starless skies.
It's a spine from a prickly pear.
A piece of my foundation,
Reminder of a place I may never hunt again.
Reminder that times change,
Blue Tongue ravaged the pronghorns
The following summer. Drowning on dry land,
Suffocating under the weight of their own ribs.
Hoof tracks crisscross the sage rises.
Picked up in a gully or atop a plateau.
Chinook serenades, strong sage,
Still stitched into my being.
By Elizabeth Done, junior, Seeley Lake High School