Up and Along the Continental Divide
by Vicki Mandell-King

I have come late and far
to where air is rare and elk bugle
up the sun, antlers raking the mist.
Out in the open, they raise their racks,

catching the scent of gunpowder
clung to the hunter’s beard.
Among our kind too,

the bright draw fire.
The road climbs and curves –
a mule deer dashes across,
her heart a hope of being unstruck.

Higher, where forest shrinks to tundra,
I see what it takes to survive –
what is large must crouch and hunker.

Here, things live close
to the ground in miniature –
pocket gophers and tiny fallen stars.
Only glacial boulders stand upright.

Out of the wind’s harsh carve,
they emerge a henge of stone.
Low, the wind slows,

whistling in the short-grass,
ruffling the feathered feet of ptarmigan.
They step sure and humble.
Under the close blue-eye of sky,

even the radiant elk bed down
– kneeling.

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