What the Shaman Knows

The air was hot and still
and I came upon  clearing
naked of trees.
In the parched grass
a doe was standing motionless, alone.
She turned and focused huge heavy eyes on me.
She knows something, what does she know?
She knows everything she needs to know.
Tell me doe, what do you know?
Squinting, I saw the sky moving up high.
She started to move forward, hesitating.
Why doesn’t she run from me, what’s the matter?
She faltered and tumbled forward onto her knees.
Ah, she’s in trouble–
I noticed her heaving flanks,
the sky swirling flapping black.
She couldn’t get up, she couldn’t go on
and tumbled onto her side.
Her baby was coming–
Instantly she was covered with
chortling black flapping wings
ripping red divots of flesh
from her swollen belly
and the baby still trying to come.
She never struggled against them
but weakly lifted her head to watch,
then lowered it again in resignation.
I raised the gleaming, sweet-smelling barrel
to my shoulder and took aim.
Once again she raised her restless head.
It was then I squeezed the trigger–
then the black flapping screeching chaos
The smack back of the stock against my cheek
The smell of sulfur
The ringing in my ears.

* An Ekphrastic poem:  This poem was influenced by my experience of Winslow Homer’s famous painting “The Fox Hunt,” and also by William Stafford’s poem, “Traveling Through the Dark.”