The morning hovers darkest in the mind, bone-chilled
from camping in a tree stand since five, I walked
the woods to track whatever fresh mud-digs I found
kicked up in the feather snow, to find a path to all things
that happened last year. I can’t remember
if I told my father I was sorry or that I loved him
before the end, but if I had the chance again,
I’d say, I loved him. For several hours
I admired what was not the city, rambling
aimlessly until hearing two bucks clacking racks
then spotted the snout-puffs of steam.
They were a close match, but after a few minutes,
it was apparent, one was superior. Slunk down
in high grass, I steadied my aim until they parted ways.
There would always be next year to stand tall.
In the brief moment the lesser of the two pranced away
toward the treeline, the divine mysteries of memory
stalking me again, scope focused, I aimed my Winchester
at the dominant buck stationed deep in heavy breath.
His chest bowed, antlers pointed toward heaven.
In the forest where no one hands out trophies
for participation, the mourning leaped deep
and dark into the lingering frost. With one shot
I brought down the loser, the way my father taught.