We had come by the boxwood too often in November
for me to think it was coincidence,
my father’s reluctance to move forward on the trail
and eagerness to stand against the old tree
and look east at the small knoll
studded with slim paper birches
like a schoolyard of gangly teens
and a dusting of snow.
We did not talk at this junction,
his useless twenty-two leaned up
against an old trunk snapped in two
by the wind of a thunderstorm
and my shotgun braced with bbs
that would never race for feathers.
I learned we were not out for pheasant.
We were there to take in, not take up.
What he hunted for soon came
after we had roamed through forest
of spruce, fir, and pine —
a low patch of late afternoon sun stretching across
the meadow and lighting up that stand
of birches and the grass on the knoll,
the snow not melting into the soil
but evaporating into the air,
the spent burred timothy moistened,
rabbit prints in the snow erased
and the fox prints in their follow
erased as well, the clock of the hunt reset.
When that twenty minutes of sun
expired and the birches given to darkness,
the dirt gone brown and the grass gone with it,
we’d walk in the shadows with the snow
left and right and straight ahead on a trail
that cut through the forest
until we made the gravel road that led
to the house next to the house
next to the house I called home.
Satchels empty, we returned.
Poem by Jeff Burt.
Jeff Burt lives in Santa Cruz County, California, with his wife and a July abundance of plums. He works in mental health, and has contributed to Heartwood, Last Leaves Journal, Rabid Oak, WIlliwaw Journal, and Sheila-na-Gig. You can find him at http://jeff-burt.com.