A Death in West Texas
Coming down the ranch road into a small grove of trees he first smelled her death & then saw she lay on stony ground where deer had left their droppings
cougar close to six feet from tail to head, claws an earthy yellow, stained enormous teeth, nipples pinking her white underfur, cat neither young nor old, but strongly made, brown as the mountain
someone, a gangling boy he’d heard, had shot her messily in the guts with a 30-30 she sprawled on her side her heroic tail still curved like some miraculous bow
what can he say it was her wound, its darkening rot, that held him her spilled black organs mixing with the deer shit he could not let down his gaze
his first look at a cougar, whose scream is a woman’s, did it have to be this way, his first look at this tawny ghost of the Americas Muir had seen on the North Fork of the Merced and Seton in the Yellowstone, cat of God, the Chickasaws said
he couldn’t undo her sleep he turned away in the slow wind’s vestibule he left her alone with the shadowy trees.
Oh, roped friend! You are like me Lonely and ripped From end to end.
Breathing wind You and I Imprisoned In free air Allowed to flutter But not to fly.
Robert Burlingame lives on a ranch in the Guadalupe Mountains of Texas with his wife Linda, an artist, and their five cats. He taught contemporary poetry and comparative literature for many years at the University of Texas at El Paso and has published poems widely in books, journals, and anthologies. Often people mention to me the indelible positive effect his classes had on them as students–homage to a passionate and humble teacher, a life authentically lived.
Saleh Abudayyeh is a poet and writer who lives in Minneapolis. He was born in Amman, Jordan, and came to the United States at the age of 18 in 1982. His poem, which might belong to all oppressed and occupied people everywhere, particularly reminds me of Palestinians in their current struggle. As Majed Dajani, weatherman of Jericho, said by phone on May 19, 2001, “All we ever hoped for was a little bit of respect.”
–Naomi Shihab Nye