The broohaha over Cheney's "hunting" accident has had me thinking all day about real hunters. About people for whom the success or failure of a hunt could mean the difference between life and death. About the animals who are killed so that we might live. Again, fear is all tangled up with thriving in a very interesting dance. Those thoughts sent me hunting for a poem I'd copied down years and years ago, in fact, on April 30, 1987, according to the journal that I finally dug up this evening. Here's Robert P. Tristram Coffin's poem, Crystal Moment:
Once or twice this side of death
Things can make one hold his breath.
From my boyhood I remember
A crystal moment of September.
A wooded island rang with sounds
Of church bells in the throats of hounds.
A buck leaped out and took the tide
With jewels flowing past each side.
With his head high like a tree
He swam within a yard of me.
I saw the golden drop of light
In his eyes turned dark with fright.
I saw the forest's holiness
On him like a fierce caress.
Fear made him lovely past belief,
My heart was trembling like a leaf.
He leans towards the land and life
With need above him like a knife.
In his wake the hot hounds churned
They stretched their muzzles out and yearned.
They bayed no more, but swam and throbbed
Hunger drove them till they sobbed.
Pursued, pursuers reached the shore
And vanished. I saw nothing more.
So they passed, a pageant such
As only gods could witness much,
Life and death upon one tether
And running beautiful together.
Whatever Cheney was doing on that "ranch" in Texas, it didn't have anything to do with this.