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Wednesday, March 22, 2017


by Brad Whitehurst

Driggs, Idaho

The yurt’s tent-flap unzipped, three Newfie hounds
ecstatic in their freedom jostle past,
sloshing John’s morning mug. They gain the trees,
inspect interstices in rock and root,
cavort through creek beds, drop fresh pats. Half-blinded
by the stroke, John navigates by sound
as his good eye makes out the blur of firs
dividing meadow from the woods. He follows
in Crocs and bathrobe, clods that mine the path
be damned, and makes a beeline for the clearing:
trampled earth, trailed twigs, fine tumbleweeds
of dog hair, Adirondack chair, and stump
cum coffee table. A sign nailed to a tree
reads Aggie’s Place. Ensconced, he senses the Tetons’
rising alpenglow; spies breeze-whipped, flip-
flopped coins of aspens, gold and copper; cocks
an ear for flocks invading the willows. Here
is retirement: three dogs, two homes, one wife,
dear Linda, preservationist of wildness
in daily life.

                      The etiquette of freedom,
Gary Snyder wrote, is how to live
with nature ordering impermanence:
improve the campsite, teach the children, oust
the tyrants. Done at last with all the awful
blather of alternative facts that stick
in the gorge and choke, we might, like Snyder, take
the longer view, unplug devices, and hike
till ego is fatigued and hubris humbled
by the parks. Take John, for instance, the only
Democrat in Idaho (save Linda
and the folks from the conservancy),
who makes his halting way each day to this edge
of wilderness. In geologic time,
these stratigraphic eras of rock uplifted,
scattered like pages of ancient manuscript,
expose rare Paleozoic fossil beds
with palimpsests of species long extinct.
Other lines have metamorphosed through their offspring
across the eons, only to decline
in genetic cul-de-sacs. In this pathetic
fallacy, a landscape that devolves
at a glacial pace, indifferent to regimes
outlasted, lacks the human element,
this mortal urge to act. Some men make idols
of themselves, which others worship, scorn,
ignore. And some like John get moving, refusing
to hunker in a man cave of self-pity,
lamenting democracy. He’d rather run
the dogs unleashed and trust in a blind man’s timing.

His coffee cooled, he listens to the pack,
bur-snagged and tuckered, amble up as Aggie,
the eldest in the back, stiffens, sniffs,
turns gyroscopic, howling at the scent
of dinosaur descendants in retreat
or coming home to roost. Three sandhill cranes
raise another prehistoric ruckus
—staccato trumpet bleats to tease the seers—
and, rising, wing past John’s appointed seat.

A native of Richmond, Virginia, Brad Whitehurst lives in New York City and teaches at the Nightingale-Bamford School.  He has earned degrees in English from The College of William and Mary (BA), Georgetown University (MA), and the Bread Loaf School of English (MLitt).  His poems have appeared in Shenandoah, Meridian, Sewanee Theological Review,, Iambs and Trochees, Country Dog Review, The Episcopal New Yorker,, among other venues.