Friday, January 06, 2006

Wood Buffalo anthrax

I

We are strong
we are old
we've lived for years
as shaggy anachronisms
even before wire fences
strangled our brown herds' old ranges
And Sharps buffalo rifles
littered the prairie with us
legacy of a thousand faceless murderers
who shot us only for our humps tongues and hides
left the rest of our bodies to rot obscenely
then gathered and ground our bleached bones
to fertilise gardens inside the barbed garottes
wrapped tight around our ancestral land.

We few survived
called ourselves lucky
when we were left
to the unfamiliar woodlands
in the north
where descendants of the gun carriers drove us
because they had yet found not cause to begin slaughter
still again
we thought ourselves safe.

Now as we die, choking
blood bubbles from our mouths
mixed with our own foamflecked rumbling laughter.
We learned we survived to inherit
the old way of death.

II

We are subtle
we are old
we've slept for years
decades and centuries
the black joke of the herd
planted by ancestral fathers
of the buffalo
and their fathers
and their fathers
who spit us onto the earth as they lay dying
choking on their own blood
tongues lolling
from beastmouth grimaces.

They survived
calling themselves lucky
when they were not molested
too much by men
until one of the last of them
stumbled by kicking the dust where we laid
then inhaled us, patient waiting
spores of anthrax
death
in the life-giving earth
legacy of their fathers
as their fathers
and their fathers
died
before the gun carriers ever came.

7 comments:

Fingers said...

..blood bubbles mixed with foamflecked rumbling laughter...

Tres visual words.

coyote said...

Too much information, d'ya think? I seem to have been delving into some grimmish topics the last couple of days. I think I'll lighten up tomorrow.

Bison are rather large -- full-grown, they weigh about a tonne. When they come running at you at full gallop, they resemble, oh, a drooling freight train. Sound kind of like one, too. I can't imagine a creature that big doing anything but rumbling when it laughs....

Fingers said...

Har har...that's really funny! I smile.

It isn't too much information at all. Grimmish topics have their days too...

I smile again.

C said...

I love this - although it brings out my slashed and bleeding heart and kills any joy that I might have had this day.

Not your fault though - it is a piece that wanted and needed to be written, and it has touched me more than any other piece that I have read.

Ugh - I sound pathetic. But I am such an animal lover I can't help it...

coyote said...

Well... here are a couple of things that might help your mood, Christa. The Wood Buffalo bison herd is in good shape these days. I was writing here about a middling anthrax outbreak that took place there in the 1970s. The herd has since recovered from that, and prospered.

Wood Buffalo National Park, in the north of the province of Alberta, is a haven for them. None of those massive, outrageous stupid mass slaughters to which I refer has taken place for more than a century and a quarter.

Here's a snip from the park's website:

"Wood Buffalo National Park was created in 1922 to protect the last remaining herds of wood bison in northern Canada. Plains bison were shipped to the park from Wainwright, Alberta, between 1925 and 1928. The imported bison promptly moved south of the Peace River into the Peace-Athabasca Delta area. In 1926 the park boundaries were expanded to include this new bison range. Today Wood Buffalo National Park protects one of the largest free-roaming, self-regulating bison herds in the world."

C said...

Yeah...I know the history.

One of my quirks is that I tend to grieve for injustices that happened in the past and that I can do nothing about. Empathy is my strongest sense, and perhaps I should experiment with writing it down. As I said...slashed and bleeding heart.

:)

Fingers said...

See, it certainly isn't too much information. Thank you for writing about this, I had no idea about this event!