She could tell, they said, a wolf howl
from a weasel, a raven from a rattlesnake,
puss moth in flight from the pika’s
shrill whistle. No one else had unlocked
the secret of timbres, no one saw the booster
ruckus of ravens, cramp of burdock-tangled wings,
the creak of a cricket’s serrated call.
The putative oracle of animal music,
they begged for her versions of truth,
believed she probably held the cards
if only they could see….
They encouraged their children to tag
along after her as she listened for candlefish
at the beginning of their run, to watch her
as her steps slowed to match the march
and clop of barge horses on the upriver pull.
Others could hear, but she could see the silver
shimmer in the death song of salmon,
the scarlet fall of howling from the ridges,
the nickel taste of red-tail circling in the loud, loud sky.