Fall 1993, Volume 10.3
Poetry

ROBERT S. MIKKELSEN

September Song

In the last week of September
Something toxic leached into
Our city wells.
All the hand guns
In our hardware store
Were put on sale.
I responded to a plea
To save the rainforests
And bought all the unborn
Twenty dollars worth
Of air to breathe.
My granddaughter,
Who had not called
For fifty-seven days,
Sent a card
To say she loved me
And needed a hundred dollars
For birth control.
Our minister told
What few of us
Were there to hear
That, yes, things
Were really bad,
But were better now
Than they would
Ever be again.

On the last day of September
My chestnut mare and I
Took the trail to Ryder Lake
In the Uinta Mountains.
We rode into aspens
Pursued by a wind
That chilled the damp
Between my shoulder blades
And trembled a billion
Golden leaves
Into living shadows
That troubled my mare.
We splashed across
The East Fork of Bear River,
Droplets rainbowing
In the morning sun.
We climbed up into pines
Until granite peaks began
To rise above their tops.
Then the wind turned around
And we neighed and sang
In the nearness
Of high clear water.

Boneyard

Ours is the only species
In the animal kingdom
That practices retirement.
All the rest get done
With what they do,
And simply die.
Once I saw a robin
Keel over mid-tug
On a robust worm,
Leaving no time for
Any of its past worms
To flash before its eyes
Before
it hit the grass.
An old mountain ram,
Clearly a bound or two
Slower than he used to be,
Was seen by a hunting guide
To miss a ledge where
Willing ewes stood waiting.
His superannuation lasted
Less than a thousand feet.
Cameras have often shown us
Caribou too old
To stay with the herd.
In minutes they are circled
By merciful jaws.
And the sea lion seems content
To swim its last stroke
And sink, never
Treading water just
To hold a shore in sight.
The last days of the elephant
Should be our parable.
When it begins to die,
It makes its way alone
To a graveyard of its fellows.
It may pause a time or two
To search through foliage
For a parting taste
Of succulence,
And even take a last wallow
In familiar mud.
But lingering never
Occupies it long.
It trumpets when it scents
Ahead the place
Where it will
Pay in bones
The debt it always owed.

The debt our bones
Are mortgaged for.