First published in Modern Haiku XXV:1, Winter–Spring 1994, page 47. Also anthologized in Journeys: An Anthology of International Haibun (Hyderabad, India: Nivasini Publishers, 2014), edited by Angelee Deodhar.
The tense wind buffets the valley, scrapes between the cliffs at the narrow end, rattles the dry grass between granite boulders around me. Alone, I step along the trail, water bottle thumping against my hip. The coolness of a passing cloud brings a mottled snowshoe hare darting out across the trail. In the sun’s heat that grows against my back again, I bend to inspect the soil.
red dust still setting . . .
my finger blurs
the hare’s faint track
I raise my head at the trill of a junco, and walk between yarrow and the occasional paintbrush toward the vague sound of a creek, tripping and curling through thinly spaced trees. The creek runs low but fills an eddy, where a short brown twig swirls and turns before slipping through small stones. Wedged between a rock and the rough bark of a weathered ponderosa just beyond the bubbling stream, the sagging carcass of a deer lies where it fell. Its yellowed rack twisted awkwardly, the mule deer’s tail is too decayed to catch the dry wind. I reach out and then stop myself from touching the tail’s black tip. A fly buzzes from under the dirt-crusted fur. In a sudden hot gust, I step around to the head of the deer. Hollow bird-pecked eye sockets stare into the still dust at the trunk of the tree.
in the mule deer’s taut hide
a bullet hole
I draw a sharp breath. The smell makes me stiffen and step back, pulling my hands from my pockets. I leap back across the creek and tread the white grasses back to the trail. I quicken my stride upward toward the distant pass. Desert plume yellows the trail edge. In the morning I drive for home. But for now I will follow the tracks of the hare.
fading sunset . . .
of the snowshoe hare