Angela Allen

Dedicated to my older students at Frenchglen

I sail the sagebrush sea, green scent drifting,
and just as you tell me, scan the land
for elk and antelope, big-horned sheep,
jack rabbits, those suicidal pests, like Jessie said.
Trevor mentioned bobcats,
but those are nocturnal
and coyotes, forget it.
It’s the middle of the day.

I spot a mule deer, six more, a dozen,
their tails white and high and arrogant
as if they own the place.
Do they have rooms at the Frenchglen Hotel?
Are they as stupid as you said
or do they run Harney County,
home of Claire the bear
and Colton, animal man?

Two mallards startle, wing into the west,
brushing cattails like a drummer does the snare.
No cranes, no egrets, no red-tailed hawks, not an eagle.
Where am I?
You promised Harney County,
land of the big and the wild and the free.
And then the hail came.

Pellets shatter, glass against the marsh grass,
rattle like popcorn jumping,
bounce, fat off a hot pan,
sting me in the face.
Drums roll, a deep desert voice,
“Go home, you can’t walk to the horizon’s end
the sky won’t stop here.”

I should be in for some good weather,
Corbin said, maybe spring,
when the snowgeese fly in.
But I’m soaked to the gills,
a fish in the prairie, a fish in the water.

Angela Allen, March 2, 2009
Harney County