Howard Nelson



"NOTICE:  Big game season is now in effect. The wearing of furs and hats with horns is not recommended, nor are any dark colors-- i.e., black, brown, gray."

-trailhead warning, New York State
Department of Environmental Conservation

I am wearing my gray wool pants, and my brown boots.
I set my name down in the trailhead register--
just past dawn, no one else around,
a few flakes of early snow
falling through the gray air.
And my black, water-repellent coat,
and my dark brown fur vest, buffalo fur,
and my Russian hat.
I will hike up to Avalanche Pass today,
and perhaps beyond,
at times sitting down on a rock
to listen to the silence or the wind,
and possibly the sound
of not so distant gunfire.
In my small black pack
I am carrying some dried fruit and nuts
and a canteen of water.
It's the only sensible thing to do.
We will see what happens.
I will breathe the cold air
and breathe out steam,
a dark figure striding among the birch woods.
I have always wanted to make this journey.  Now
I strap on my nine-pronged antlers
and set off down the trail.


THE JOURNEY appeared in BONE MUSIC (Nightshade Press, 1997)