The Hunt

2 November 1981

 

 

The forest is still

and the cold

sits on the land.

I stand frozen becoming a tree

or some bush,

at least a part of,

and not a visitor.

 

Quietly, the forest comes alive

with twig drops and birds,

leaf rustles

and my own breathing.

 

I am here watching and waiting.

Will the stag show himself?

Will I see or hear him first?

 

The dawn becomes day around me

and dark shadows, a dead tree,

or thick tangled bush.

Now sounds from the tree tops

and the hunter is deadly still.

 

Beyond sight and hearing now,

I fade into this little world.

No telephones and bank drafts.

No lies and politics.

Another sense grows inside me.

One without time as a backbone

for waiting has no meaning here.

 

The day grows bright.

The wind begins to build

and the silent forest becomes

a river of wind waves and rustle.

 

Ants move about my feet,

birds overhead.

 

I cough suddenly, unexpectedly,

and the explosion rocks the nearby.

How far was it heard?

 

I sense a sudden tenseness in the leaves.

They all know I am here,

an alien in their world.

 

"What motivation?", they ask.

The gun barrel scatters light.

"No need to ask", I say.

"I mean no harm".

 

"Is it true ?", my new senses ask.

Does this place know violent death?

A twisted, burnt tree; lighting perhaps?

A squirrel snatched by a hawk?

 

Slow decay and rebirth.

A leaf sails to the ground from high above.

 

The cold settles into my bones.

My hands are stiff.

I want to move.

 

My eyes sweep the world,

all I can see.

What about behind me?

 

I have no fear here.

What danger for me?

 

Listening and looking;

my head, my neck

makes as sound as I survey.

 

My thoughts drift.

I do not sense my prey.

 

I think about the moment.

If it comes, will I shoot?

Why can't the sound of the stag's death

be silent?

 

I dread the explosion, the blast,

that will shatter this peace.

 

Will he see me first and sense who I am:

Death come to wait for him?

 

Drifting thoughts see ancient times.

I am a hunter six days out

having to have meat for my lodge.

 

I've tracked this one,

this one, God has assigned to me.

I can not have another.

And if another comes

I will not shoot.

 

Worlds of petty concern bubble

away from my head.

I spend too much time

in petty concern, worry.

Here everything is open.

Slow steady life

and death.

 

I hear sounds.

Another hunter nearby

and noisy.

I watch for game fleeing his path

but none come my way.

 

"Game", a funny word to use

for animals,

flesh and bones,

breathe.

 

I envision a roadway down the ridge that stretches before me.

A highway for game on the move.

But no roadway, path, exists here.

No channels or "stop" and "go".

 

I question my spot.

Am I in the right place ?

 

Morning moves to noon and I envision the stag's movements.

He is coming now slowly, cautiously

down off the mountain top to his destiny.

 

This is his world

and he searches out the forest

way ahead of himself.

Does he smell the city on me?

Does he feel, hear, my breathing?

Does my weapon give off some explosion echo

I can not hear?

I see warriors and war games.

Battles fought over and for,

with no lasting results.

 

Trees sway in the breeze.

The wind has shifted.

Will the bull elephant get my scent

and charge?

 

Native and equipment bearers trek through.

A lost safari.

 

A tiger lurks nearby

deep in the rushes.

I am his prey.

 

I think of snakes and check the ground around me.

No. I am safe.

 

Old words come to mind.

Old names.

Names of hunters and warriors.

Visions of the celebration of the kill.

Women and children singing praises.

The skins will make new boots.

The bones new hair ornaments.

The littlest boy longs to join me in my hunts.

I have much to teach him.

 

My hands ache now.

The fingers slow to move.

Some sort of handicap

to make the odds more even?

Nature extracting its due

for my being here?

 

I am thirsty

but there is no water.

The stag will eat select leaves

and be quenched.

I do not have the evolution for it.

 

Out through the eyes,

everything remains the same,

yet changes.

 

I feel my soul shrink

and expand.

I begin to know this place.

I begin to not think anymore,

just be.

 

Being and moving slightly in the wind.

Am I blending now?

Am I here?

 

I see his horns first,

twigs that move out of step

with the wind.

here, his head

down to the ground

and up,

pulling the air through his nose.

He hasn't seen me.

I am here, waiting.

He has no sense of danger:

I have let that slip away

from me.

 

He's taken my roadway,

the path I would have taken.

Slowly he moves,

ever so slowly.

 

I see him all now.

I see nothing else.

I can not hear him.

 

I am stiff.

I must begin to move,

to align myself to strike.

 

Down off the ridge he comes,

towards me but into the sun.

He looks at me but I am only a bush.

I do not move.

 

Horns and hide,

salted down,

hanging in the shed.

 

The knife all honed

and waiting.

Visions of blood,

bloody hands

and he laying there.

I take another drink

and smile.

They all listen to the story again.

We count the stag's horned points.

 

The tribe is happy.

We have meat.

The Great Spirit has directed life,

new life, into our warriors.

Supermarket packages

all neat and clean.

No blood showing.

 

My arms have slowly raised,

the grip tightening on the weapon.

 

Bits of metal all safely home in their beds

waiting for my order to strike.

 

He moves quicker now.

Has he sensed my movement

as I first sensed his?

The wind gusts and I move with it.

Almost to my shoulder.

 

Bow string tight.

The warrior whispers

to the feathered limb,

"Strike with my hand".

Hours spent making the head

sharp and deadly.


Full moon in the morning sky

and vampires and werewolves out somewhere

searching for their prey.

Why do I feel different from them?

What contest or battle

or struggle is this?

 

He comes out of the flats

and up the ridge.

Moving away from me,

I have the eye to the sight.

 

She was cautious

when we first saw her,

that first hunt.

 

He looked over at me

from behind his tree.

"Wait".

Maybe the stag will follow.

 

I was ready then,

for him,

my father.

I would have pulled the hammer,

exploded the silence,

seen her shock

and fall.

 

I couldn't miss then.

The target range skills honed

as sharp as the knife

he had given me.


It would have been only another target.

Bulls eye center.

But she as not ours.

Only a stag will do

for the boy hunter.

 

The tribe has its rituals,

initiation rights.

The blood from the first must be drawn

from the horned beast.

There is no other way

for a boy becoming a man.

 

He has stopped now.

He knows something is foreign.

What does he sense?

 

He sees me, I know it.

I see his concentration.

His head extends up on his neck.

His neck draws tight.

 

The hammer is back

and my fingers grip tighter.

I see him down my barrel

just at the bottom of the "V".

 

I will see the lead leave the metal arm.

Quickly it will travel the distance between us

and strike.

I will see his surprise.

No pain initially.

Surprise, shock.

I will be true of aim

of purpose.

He falls.

 

A head on the wall.

Moose head

and wild boar,

tusks and all.

 

We stare at each other

and my heart pounds.

He has come to my death stand

and is waiting.

 

Does he say one last prayer?

Does he think of crisp dawns

he has known?

Does he jump about in his mind,

young and fresh horned?

 

The world is in the bottom of a "V".

I have a direction,

an aim,

a very set path.

Only one act more to perform.

 

His lungs expel clouds of moisture.

He stands watching me.

Only seconds have gone by.

How long will he wait?

How long will God hold him here?

 

I think of the warm car,

the conversation,

The expectations.

The children at school

learning their bloodless physics

and stone cold numbers.

 

Is it really his time?

Am I to bring him his death?

Thrust it upon him?

 

My father.

His soul invades me.

His vision is mine.

I feel the differences.

 

This old hunter has been here,

at this moment,

many times before.

He would not hesitate.

Just let one breathe out

and the world is one finger

and eye.

 

The stag turns away

and I am shocked by it.

But I feel himself relax.

 

No, I will not being death

to this animal today.

 

The tribe must pack and move.

They must have game.

The old ones speak of the great horned ones

beyond the high mountain.

It will be better there.

 

The tiger moves away

tracking a small pig.

 

The kids go to recess.

 

A leaf falls.

The battlefield is silent once again.

The stag moves on down my ridge.

He does not think of me,

our meeting,

or why.

 

I finally blink

and the world comes back.

The weapon is coming down to my side.

Why am I here,

if not to slay the dragon,

to save the tribe,

post the trophy on the wall?

 

My hands find my pockets

and I fumble with loose change.

I don't see or hear,

only dream.

Perhaps it is shock,

a daze.

 

If he comes back.

If he fights me.

If he laughs at me.

But he will not do any of these.

 

Do I pretend

or do I sit down

and relax?

Is it over or

do I watch for new movement?

 

My heart has slowed now

and I feel a twinge of hunger.

I can taste his flesh

and it would have been good.

I would have liked

to have joined the club.

 

The old man looks at the boy.

He must be a warrior,

a hunter.

Why can he not kill?

The boy offers no explanation.

Was he not taught how to hunt,

stalk, as was his father?

 

The boy stands ashamed.

He will do it next time,

he must.

He is confused,

abandoned.

 

His father is disgraced.

Proud and a wise man,

he will not push the boy.

 

The do not speak

as they prepare the arrows.

Each arrowhead sharpened

on the horns of a previous kill.

 

There is a crashing,

a deer coming fast.

I jump up and spin towards the sound.

 

I am so stiff.

There he is,

directly off to my right,

running head high

stabbing the air with his nose.

 

The shot rings out

and my father hears it.

Smiles on the tribe tonight.

The boy has come to manhood

in a twinkle of an eye.

 

The stag lays at my feet.

Too sudden for either of us to have understood the moment.

He is dead and somehow,

I feel very little.

 

I've taken his life

and yet the trees do not bend

and weep.

 

All seems as it should be.

 

The boy climbs a rock peak

this night

and watches the sky.

The stars shine down on him

and he thinks of the other times.

He has become a man, a warrior.

It wasn't hard.

But he feels a loss,

as if the forest knows him now

and will never trust him again.

He is sad to have lost that

but the horns are his.

 

89 cents a pound: delivered.

Flesh and bone,

blood and guts.

The children clap as dinner is served.

 

The tiger has caught a pig

and he sets gorged on the fresh kill.

Scavengers gather and wait.

They will have their turn.

 

The tusks lay in the dirt.

The tiger has no use for them.

The blood sinks into the earth

and turns a dark red.

 

Shells in the drawer.

Muzzle velocity prepared.

Missiles cocked and ready.

 

We climb into the truck.

It has been a good hunt.

Tonight will be one of drink

and song.

 

I smoke before bed.

Laying quietly now,

I see the forest once again:

hollows and ridges,

saddles and gullies.

 

A ghost, a specter,

haunts my sleep.

Black and hooded,

he waits for me up ahead.

I have no choice

but to move towards him.

 

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