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Grey Sparrow Journal

Issue 30, July 31, 2017
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Crossing the River

 

After a record-breaking night,

slush flowed on top the river’s roil

like dirt specks floating across an eyeball,

tricking us into thinking something close

is far away. Ice vellum wrapped rocks along the shoreline

and air bubbles milled like field mice trapped beneath.

As close as it gets to freezing over,

each frosted branch

encased with eager light.

A panting buck on three legs by the black water line

and two fat coyotes nearby,

eyeing chickadees hopping along red willow bobbins.

Maybe he was resting

after a slow night of quiet stalking,

the coyotes trailing just close enough so he couldn’t stop

stumbling through the frozen forest. It was beautiful,

how the gold of the coyotes’ manes

grew thick in the sun like a resolution.

The buck’s broken leg

bent beneath his chest, silent breath clouds.

Like a branch cracking beneath a storm’s weight,

he rocked across the icy river,

up a low bank,

across rusted railroad tracks,

heavy rack dipping and rising.

Standing, the coyotes watched as if they had just noticed

the mule deer, then trotted along the edge. It was beautiful

how the buck kept going. How he didn’t.

 

―Karen Terrey