Bison Bison, Jigsaw
The best sleep I ever got
was in the back of that pickup in a prairie.
Tucked into my 1988 Dodge Dakota long bed — a puzzle piece,
belonging surrounded by stars and sagebrush and bison bison
licking road salt from the hubs,
rocking their baby.
The truck rolls to a stop. I tumble out,
un-pinch my nose, and let the blood soak into the dirt.
It is late and completely prairie. There is nothing — no water, tissues,
a receipt on the floor.
100 or so, the herd that I do not see—bison bison,
scattered, the loose pieces to a jigsaw of night.
On all fours, I rub my blood-covered palms
into the earth. No one drives by
[thank the stars it is late]
me looking like I tried to kiss
a wild animal.
In the irony, I look up
at one wild eye and the bottom teeth of the wood bison:
magnificent bovine; largest land mammal of N. America
staring down at a despicable me. A prairie
of bison with eyes stretching open in horror, repulsed
by the new member of their pack: she who muddies the clean night
muttering in tongues to herself.
The stars were so bright, and only the sound
of bison teeth slow-chewing dry grass.
It is February in my cabin windows. I watch a herd
run down the hills—wild eyes, hooves, horns
emerging and disappearing through the shroud of dust and snow.
Natives—Crow, Blackfoot, Nez Perce, whoever can say
their ancestors ate bison meat before the trains came.
(I imagine a string of cars, oily faces, oiled hair, coal smoke, hot
rails, hot wheels. Bullets land in dust, in babies, in my gut. God’s
magnificent utterances wasted in a state of lust.)
I watch a few collapse to die. Something collapses
in my chest. I try to make a puzzle out of the wreckage:
try to remember how to love everything
not just in bounty—in chaos,
in death, in nothing.
Later, a grandmother in the cab
rolls down her window and hollers that
she [window starts back up] is cold
and to [muffled] hurry.
I ask how many tags they have. “One.”
A teenager laughs in the dark. Montana accent,
“Some Salish tried to say they hunted bison.”
Everyone chuckles. I don’t get it.
A voice from the other side of the pick-up,
“This is the best sleep tha’ bison will ever get.”
Headlamps jump from the truck. I wish them a
safe drive, wave at the bottomed-out bed,
a horn poking up.
I learn Salish were salmon hunters.
By Daria Uporsky
Daria Uporsky is a freelance writer and nature photographer based in Western North Carolina and Montana. She is most recently published in the literary journal Valparaiso Poetry Review.