Down the draw at dusk seven mule deer come
to browse the blanched grasses around the cabin.
Not all has been winter-killed this early April
as these timid sisters nudge the bitter tufts.
Rose-gold floods their flanks.
Soon all shadows leach away.
Come morning, frost ferns the windowpanes
and my breath disrupts moth-dust on the sill.
The branches of fog-haunted firs appear
to have been assembled from brackish ash.
Lichen brocades the stones hove
from this forest's decay.
At the trailhead, I find an elk skeleton,
its wind-strummed ribs like the empty staves
of a stranded, sunlit ship in the scree.
Gone the ruminant heart, the once pink
and capacious lungs. On its spine
a moth opens its delicate hinge.
The Progress of Night
In the late elegiac light, insects
chide the frail contraption of the sky,
its faulty system of pulleys and wires.
Piteous stars circuit the stripped gears
of galaxy as crickets keep grinding
out twilight's tinny, dwindling music.
Again that pale immigrant blunders in
to watch over the progress of night,
to observe the grim magics we practice,
all the oaths we take and make and utter.
What comfort can we offer another
traveler under this same unsteady scaffold?
We'll find no charm against calamity.
Though the dark architecture of the heart
is buttressed by sternum, girded by ribs,
we build our lives from its very trembling.
Amy Fleury is the author of Sympathetic Magic and Beautiful Trouble (winner of the Crab Orchard Series First Book Award).
"Elk Skeleton" is reprinted from Sympathetic Magic; "The Progress of Night" is reprinted from Beautiful Trouble, with the permission of the author, both books published by Southern Illinois University Press.