We’d been in Prescott several months
before I felt quite brave enough
to wander a mile of state trust land
neighboring our windy, new hillside home.
Raised in the Midwest, it was like another world
harsh and barren – and continuously warned
of giant spiders and big mountain cats,
poisonous snakes and thieving rats.
Instead, I learned of high dessert ways,
where life and death are on display.
In each cow for slaughter in the shade of a pine;
in the shy, white blossoms of the desert moon vine;
which shun the sun all summer long,
closing their beauty to everyone.
Then as the gentle night unfolds,
so does each petal, bright and bold.
In every piece of a recent kill,
neatly picked clean from above and below,
until nothing remains but an armful of bones
to bleach and decay in the perennial sun.
Each time I’ve wandered this rolling terrain,
it has begged more questions and felt more sane;
and given me moments I’ll relive again
with a broad, happy smile for all that’s been.
Of days making circles within this wild square,
with the weight of the world or nary a care;
the moment the dogs and I walked up a hill,
where a herd of pronghorn stood scattered and still.
Two dozen, or so, at rest and at play.
Not bothered enough to run away.
Even as the dogs whined and pulled at their leashes,
they just raised their heads, and I stood speechless.
With earthy colors of white, black and wheat,
small groups spread out, but young close to teat.
Feeling the ache of the dogs in my arms,
and wanting to keep all present from harm,
I called for calm and aimed for home,
turning my pack from the wondrous tableau.
We hadn’t gone far when I felt the ground shake.
The once placid herd was now wide awake.
The dogs were frantic. Nearly pulled off my feet.
I turned to see the herd and me just about to meet.
Digging in heels and holding on tight,
I stared to the eyes of the leader in sight.
With the herd right behind, and us just ahead,
it was up to this doe as to how this would end.
At the very last moment, the doe darted right,
followed close by her clan, who were now in full flight.
The spray from her hooves shot into my gape,
as we watched the herd and our narrow escape.
Just the other side of a short, fat tree
the pronghorn passed just feet away.
Turning with the herd, thus turning their keeper,
the dogs spun me round, so I dug my heels deeper.
But instead of the group going forward and gone,
the leader turned back from where they had come!
A dust cloud of pronghorns surrounded all sides.
Dogs yanking and whining and losing their minds.
All I can think is, “Keep anchored! Hang tight!”
And that no one was going to concede this wild sight.
For how could I make someone truly believe
that I was in the middle of a pronghorn stampede?
When the final white butt disappeared in the dust,
leaving us trembling, I laughed – as you must.
“Holy shit!”, I screamed out, again and again,
as I looked for my breath and steadied my friends.
We climbed the last hills of this special square mile,
to our tame, little world, where we’d rest a while
and dream of dust clouds.