Hunter, Hunted, and Mountain Biker
On the back of Pinnacle Mountain,
down roads where you rarely see
people traveling about,
rocks rise out of the gravel and dirt
like bony spines of ancient dinosaurs,
and trees are hunched and gnarled,
limbs twisted by winter winds,
now brushy and dark green
with oak leaves and acorns.
Skidding around a corner,
a dark figure on all fours
catches my eye
and locks my brakes.
Ten yards ahead,
in a sunlit patch of road,
dark bristly fur,
too big to be a dog,
the brown nose gives away
the bear cub’s identity.
But mine must have been confusing
to him, maybe never having seen
a boy on a bike,
round wheels instead of legs
on a steel-framed skeleton carcass.
What are wheels to a creature
who can climb rocky crags
and steep ridges
I wouldn’t attempt to clamor up?
----- Instinct identified me well enough,
----- and with a low moan, the cub
----- runs back into the dark green shadows.
----- I didn’t stick around to meet his mother.
The next week I met its poacher
in a red and faded pick up truck
creeping up the same road, slowly.
A gray, long-eared hound dog,
skin and bones, wearing a body collar,
was bolted by a leash to the hood.
Standing with a purpose, it leaned forward
like a rock climber, pulling on her lead rope,
a surfer on a Chevrolet wave,
sniffing the air, first one way,
and then the next.
The man looked just as confused
as the bear the previous day
to see a boy on a bike,
coming down the mountain,
out here where his thoughts
had possessed the solitary wilderness.
As we passed each other
on the narrow, rutted road,
he lifted his hand.
I nodded my head and smiled,
caught a glint of corn liquor
in his red and faded eyes.
----- We momentarily shared the silence,
----- save for the whirring and creaking
----- of his 4-wheel drive,
----- and then we were masters
----- of our surroundings once again.
from Pine Mountain Sand & Gravel 11 (Fall 2004) 25