The Stag at Breitenbush
I limp to the water's edge: look at
the writing-brushes of the ponderosa pines
poised against the sky. If Lao Tzu were here
he'd say something clever about the trees.
Nothing. Stripped to the flabby flesh,
dusty, full of poisons, harried and harassed,
cornered at last in a sacred place, I lower
my head. I still have the antlers of my pride.
Don't fuck with me. I have been patient,
in my fashion, and I am old, but it is still
not safe to taunt me, not safe
to back me into a cage.
It's not the mood you would choose
for entering a cathedral.
I come with my sins stinking fresh,
reeking of bad faith.
Full of anger at those who have helped me,
full of despair at intimations of hope,
grown old in the quest for youth,
grown fearful in the quest for courage.
How long would it take
to unwind all these crusted bandages?
Longer than I have. The scabs are
meshed with the linen, the blood
is matted in my fur. Still
there's no sense waiting till you're clean
to take a bath: the hunters gather silent
as I wade into the pool.