A Child’s Breath
Orion’s hunting song is told when nights are long and cold.
All who listen to the wind hear the local version
Sung until the end of our great excursion.
Words press together in my throat like the vise jaw that traps,
Or the cold gust that snaps at the flame.
Beaver and Bear, Mink and Wild Goat,
I shout out their spirit name.
They are pelts now and none without flaw,
For each is marred gnawing its own limb,
Panicked and terror-filled,
Tearing flesh, its own teeth a prisoner’s saw,
Until exhausted, dies.
Scavengers that happen by further blemish my furs
Before I return to check my perpetual snares, retrieve my hides,
Reset the mechanisms.
I use also the teeth and bones, shaping them
To all manner of simple wares that remain
Permanent as stones.
These nights Orion strides above me all aglow
As I piss-carve his outline in the crusty snows below.
Animal skins line the hard-packed dirt floor and cover my children.
Small warmth to last against the northern wind
Until the annual thaw arrives, when
Orion, The Great One, disappears low into the west,
Nowhere to be seen by us.
I hunt, but I am not pure like the stars for I trap also,
As I confessed.
I will gather berries too, and when Orion is under world
And can no longer see my shame,
I will even plant the seed, but,
I am sure get the harvest in before he strides upon us once again:
Unchanged, Magnificent, Ageless, and without blame to
Track across the winter’s forest sky.
The wind announced its sorrow after the fire was down
When I count my children by their rhythmic breathing sound.
Each night death seems nearer, its aura intensified during
“The Months of the Long Nights.”
But as each night is nearly passed hope is created.
I bless their breaths.
Orion is not the cruel deceiver I am.
He baits no traps with lies.
He does not leave his dirty work to far-flung enterprise.
No, he is there when the world ends,
When whoever falls to him, dies
By his hand alone.
His star meadow is guilelessly sown in blood drops of light.
His eternal hunt is single-minded, untiring, unmoved by care or need,
As if the prey was not the end, as if the prey was seed to send.
Great Orion ignores my awe, returns it unused,
Orion stalks a bold and joyous precession across the eons
Of our feeble time, as if my fur pelts did not matter.
He carries his possessions,
He need not fashion weapons.
The arms he uses
Forged long ago in deep time by bursts
And re-bursts that will likely long outlive our own,
Are never spent, never need replacement.
His belt is a hatchery of light that points each new year
Toward his hunting dog nipping
On the horizon of our aborning sun.
His fierce presence, amplified by cold and wind and death,
Scorns my fire as useless,
Does not chase its warmth,
Which leads me to believe he has no children.
As the stars disappear gradually,
So too the illusion I named, tomorrow.
The hallowed sun arrives as black night crawls to blue,
Blue becomes gray, gray begets gold.
The east wears the crown in the alchemy of dawn.
Orion the hunter is gone.
Resolve overlies my sorrow,
We replaced I,
You must replace me.
And in those cold dark times,
In those long winter months
When death is much upon our minds,
Orion leads me to your breaths
And the hope, though not the promise,