Or, Perhaps You Have

Morning, early September. Still dark,

a proper chill reminding me how

short our summers really are, how

much good can come from a thermos

of coffee. We’re sitting silent in the

truck, the ticks of the cooling engine

mix with the Land’s yawn and stretch

in preparation for dawn.


Our ears become keen enough to hear

a nearby stream find its way back to

a pond we can’t yet see, enough to hear

the forest floor yield to the feet of spruce

grouse, pine marten, the falling bits of seeds

and cones from the mouths of squirrels.


The blue-black gives way to grey

as daylight makes its way over the edge

of North America, reaches this island

half an hour before the rest of Turtle

Island, rouses the dark mass of antler

bone and fur from its grassy bed,

watches it trot its way out onto bog.


How to step into this lineage, to write

about an animal integral to this island’s

identity yet so alien it had to be introduced,

twice? To write this is to graft breath and

marrow to pure rock and recognize this bond

as real love, as more than just good enough,

to accept this come-from-away as family,

as lover, as one of our own.


Back to the bog—my mother takes

a deep breath, raises the iron sight

to the spot just behind the front leg,

those first few ribs encasing the lungs,

everything vital. Knowing that to take

this life to feed your own is, still, an act

of love, reverence, an act so full of risk

of getting it wrong, to miss the point,

miss the shot, the weighted responsibility

of enacting this death with a good heart—

the soft bog cradles the animal to rest.


Maybe you’ve never seen so much

blood, felt the heat of a living thing

radiate from itself to thaw your numbed

fingers, feel its energy slowly transfer,

purest of intimacies, from its earthly

form into yours. Or, perhaps you have—

and you’re as lost for the right words

as I am, fumbling to relay such immediacy,

such connection.

Douglas Walbourne-Gough is a poet and mixed/adopted Mi’kmaq from Corner Brook, Newfoundland. He holds an MFA in creative writing and is currently a creative writing PhD student. His first collection, Crow Gulch (2019), was published by Goose Lane Editions’ icehouse poetry imprint. For more about Douglas, visit walbournegough.com.