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Underground Harvest Vermillion Literary Project, 1990, Volume VIII


Cal Thunder Hawk


The Altar

A winter stroll upon a deer trail blown free of snow
Twisted down into a valley claring where
Red-tipped stands of slender sumac surround a seam
In the limestone where a spring breaks to the surface.
I prayed and placed my offerings there
And took the sandy path that gently sloped upward along a ridge
Beneath thick boughs of pine and the fallen debris of branch
And withered vines hung in the broken shadows
There, amid the tangled brush of rotting leaves
A deer skull with antlers like outstretched fingers
Frozen in a desperate prayer
Lay in the gore and mangle of fur and bone

Down the smooth slope of snow from the limestone crest
The furious pits of bloodied struggle and broken flight
Led to this ravaged spot where carnage from a savage heap
Lay scattered and strewn upon the winter scene
The sacrificial violence wrought upon this lethal terrain's
Altar of predator and prey -- an awe-filled moment's ritual
In its nourishing offering to the feast of this reality's
Mystical cycle and the force of its turning
Astonished my contemplation of its meaning

1990 Cal Thunder Hawk