Twilit ride under a light-limned darkfall,
the last pale west a blush behind your silhouette
as we give the horses their heads,
hoping not to miss the ridge trail
in a skiff of star-tagged snow.
When the moon spills over Granite Basin Ridge
like a forty-thousand watt Halogen
I remember reading how the Chinese believe
each month on this night Yi, the archer, traveled home.
Did Yi also bring his fresh kill wrapped in a heavy hide?
Or some other gift perhaps for moon-wife Cheng-o?
Antlers atop the packhorse tangle the branches;
gleamed platinum settings to bezel the giant opal
floating the ridgeline—a surprise engagement
between us and the night. Tanged rocks,
chipped by iron shoes, spark the snow—
windsong a sting of pine and fir.
Horses huff their effort in clouds at their muzzles
and the bits tsing. I calculate the difference
between the elk’s red-tumbled crash,
the tsunami-drowned white night,
and your hunkered shape:
which more lovely?
You turn, check my distance.
Blood smell rises, musky, elemental,
from my vest, my gloved hands,
and I jerk the pack-horse rope
as if to weigh the price per pound.