Enjoy these- they will only be up for a month…
September, an Ode
Song for the Sandhills
Forested shoulders sloping down its valley,
the Sheyenne carves its way through North Dakota
to Agassiz, lakebed of the Red River.
I pass a timber truck to prove that logging
endures far east of our Montana mountains.
Certainly cutting spruces, climax forest,
their seed borne to the plains in bison droppings,
much as the Sioux fled from the Ojibwa
who built birch bark canoes to run our rivers
long before the Lakota learned Horse Culture.
Lake Agassiz burst east, out through the Pigeon
to feed the Great Lakes, clear to the St. Lawrence.
How slowly it retreated questing northward
to bring its mighty river up to Churchill.
Agassiz lapped six hundred feet above me.
Long hunting the Sheyenne National Grasslands,
a vast moraine, scrub oak-clad hills and prairie
draining its watershed forever northward,
bound for the Arctic, bound for the Aurora,
it makes an aging man feel mighty youthful.
No Township, Range or Section
There ain’t no grouse in southeast North Dakota
save for one secret spot I have long scouted,
a half section high on the Sheyenne’s shoulder,
gravel moraine, weather-rounded erratics
left in the wake of our retreating glacier.
An eastern outlier of short grass prairie,
what makes it magic is its silverberry,
knee-high shrubs irrestible to sharp tails
who covet berries dangling at eye level.
Treeless covert, I found it in my twenties
well before dawn, wingtip to wingtip covey
hurrying home from water at a stock pond.
Don’t ask me where, it’s under strict embargo,
but lies less than a hundred miles from Fargo.
Ransom County Rambles
Force five gale from the West, the grouse flushed wild,
and I was porting my tiny Twenty-eight.
The slingshot that I brandished as a child
might have been more lethal. We came too late,
grouse in the silverberry wide awake,
skittish, flushing seventy-five yards out,
three years since I left grouse guts in my wake,
the prairie lush, healed of our summer drought.
Tomorrow I’ll go back, heavier iron.
Long before dawn we’ll leave our little house,
vest up at sunrise and explore the siren
scent trails of the wary prairie grouse.
Hunting at Sixty-five
Clothe me in camouflage, and like as not
I’ll miss because my reflexes are shot,
my eye is bleary, and my legs are not
fit to pound up four hundred hillside feet
behind young Chucky, every bit as fleet
as Feeney. Let me not just repeat
triumphs recorded long ago when young.
Let me swirl sips of whiskey on my tongue,
recalling barn doors where my cocks were hung
to air, their entrails in the bloodied grass
where young hunters sigh with a soft alas
this hunt is over, and this too shall pass
when like our forebears we are growing old.
Too soon I shall come in out of the cold.
Best of Seasons
I’ve longed to farm the Sheyenne River bottoms,
their topsoils black as the Red River Valley.
Instead I’ve hunted them for forty autumns.
Wake in the dark, sleepless before each sally,
white line fever, the asphalt still before me,
Columbian the coffee to restore me.
Ploughshares too swiftly bury all the stubble,
no pigeon grasses for the witch doves’ covens,
and every day I pray to shoot a double
jalapenoed and baconed for our ovens.
Sumac turns crimson and the aspens yellow.
I scratch the soft ears of my little fellow
and offer praises to the One who made me
and every side hill scrub oak that will shade me.