Hunting Camp at Yucca Valley
A thrush sharpens its beak on an atriplex,
and suddenly, it is morning;
I push the sand with naked toes, and suddenly,
I am alive with need, waters beckon.
The thrush is in full song, the mountain in full rose,
Hunger makes its usual rounds.
First the men grunt, then they sway toward the rocks,
shivering quietly in their long-johns and woolen socks,
they put their boots on in haste; no time to waste at dawn.
The grain ground up and boiled,
I prepare the gruel for the children
who groggily slither out of their bed-sacks,
one by soft one, vulnerable.
Coffee begins to boil on the makeshift grill.
I blow on my fingers in silent anticipation.
Gun propped up against the tent,
I watch for any movement, alert.
The men walk out of camp,
whispering position and angle of their prospective prey.
Now Sun is ready to return to hell in its quotidian chore,
to suffocate life down here by noon.
A last coyote silently lopes away
not far from the fading embers of our last fire.
A game quail marches by, in full breast and cocky plume,
to lead me away from its young.
At that moment I decide to let the carbine rest on its wooden pedestal,
a harsh token of my weakness.
Eye full of grits and fat;
Hunger subsides to conscience.
Let the men rip the air with their power in the mid-morning hush -
let them drag a heavy carcass home to the mining camp,
for me to butcher, for the children to grow.
One shot is all I hear:
Winter will be kinder
with a burro in the freezer this year.------------------------------------------------
with sincere apologies to the animal kingdom for the humble distribution of protein for healthy childhood development.
photo credit: Calvin Jones