Those old seekers went without water or food,
facing this crack in the bedrock of the world,
nest of silence, the slow trickle
of something that watches
from under the lid
of a stone eye.
On the fourth night, the cliff swelled and rang,
faint radiance leaking from its seams
horned figures with enormous hands,
mountain sheep, elk, a long-legged bird,
and this pecked form like a swollen tick
with four tiny feet and giant ears,
carrying the odor of singed fur.
It is Cottontail.
He who killed the sun because he said
it moved too fast.
Just at dawn, when long-whiskered rays
hissed out of the lake,
he shot his fire drill like an arrow,
and the wounded star reeled and sagged
to earth, hissing and groaning,
boiling rivers into steam,
setting trees on fire.
Cottontail, his fur smoldering,
dived into a hole.
After everything got quiet,
he crept forth, cut out the dead sun's guts
and threw them back into the sky,
bright spangles exploding
in a cold void....
It is desert here now.
The quiet stream fingers
through oily reeds. I hear
the distant hum of stripper pumps,
a pickup grinding on the unpaved road.
The diminished sun yawns,
sleepwalking through empty clouds.
Crotalus viridis viridis
Always this lurch of the heart
when I find you, a scatter
of gravel that suddenly stirs,
revealed as a jeweled length
with unblinking eyes.
All winter you slept underground,
obscure as a root in a Gorgon's tangle
of dreaming coils, a skein
that unraveled with lengthening days,
each one setting forth alone
on the earth's dangerous skin.
You stare back at me,
tail a blur, saving
your venom for the deer mouse
in whose tunnel you waited all night
to stab and release, then follow
the staggering trail
through weaving infrared shimmers,
tonguescapes of molecules ending
in a small corpse.
Alert and serene as a monk
on your cushion of stones,
you practice the discipline of serpents:
To be spare as a swallow of water,
a breath of air.
To eat only in summer.
To carry the map of an alternate world
engraved in your elegant bones.