Then I Packed You Up the Ridge Like a Brother on My Back

In the blue dark I followed the ridge
toward the pines.

In a bowl of sage and dry grass
soft as the throat-hairs

of something small,
I lay down.

The sun was a long time coming,
the earth bloodless at my belly.

I waited and watched the river.
I was very still. You know how it is—

the stars closing their bright mouths,
the dew a gift on your lips.    

You did not see me,
or my rifle,

blue as the dark. I saw you
step from the willows,

give your nose to the black water.
And you were beautiful. There is so much

blood in a thing—
yours welled up from the clean hole

I made in your heart and steamed
on the river stones,

and some washed down into the river,
where it swirled a moment,

and became the breath of fish.

Copyright © 2012 Joe Wilkins. “Then I Packed You Up the Ridge Like a Brother on My Back” was published in Notes from the Journey Westward (White Pine Press, 2012). Used with permission of the author.