Dear Ones—I want to complain
there are no animals in these woods,
but that’s a mistake—I’m here,
and the magpies and a red squirrel,
the tracks of a nocturnal mouse,
the pee posts of the investigating dog
of the security guard, and just across
the valley on Sulphur, the sighting
of a cougar mother and her cubs.
On our flank, the sound of a bobcat,
motor growling, clearing away snow
on a gray day with low fog blanking
out the woods, the smallest flakes
descending like a swarm of gnats.
Above me a caramel roof of Douglas fir,
and out on the ridge a butterscotch splotch
I’ve been staring at all morning,
wondering if one of the local cougars
could be stretched out taking a nap
or I’m inventing something from a stump
when that tumble of black branches above it
tilts, resolving into the many-pointed antlers
of a bull elk at rest, shifting his head
above his tawny blonde haunches.
Robin Chapman grew up with the dogs and cats of her childhood and has watched the animals moving through the Rocky Mountains of Banff, Canada, for over twenty Januaries from the window of her writing studio, time and place generously granted by the Banff Center for the Arts. She is the author of eight books of poetry; a ninth, Six True Things, about her dogs, cats, and childhood in the Manhattan Project town of Oak Ridge, Tennessee, will be published by Tebot Bach in fall 2016.