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by John Leax
Two innocents in the holy wild, the pair
stood gaping at the hairy heap of body
on the trail. What terrified them most, the boy
told us, was the silence of the pursuit.
In the bright afternoon, when she first saw
him digging roots across a flowered field
and they set off to intersect his course,
he was dumb. In the dimming light of dusk,
when he turned upon their looming curiosity,
he made no sound. And through the long dark,
as they wove among the trees not even
an exhalation of his breath reached their ears.
A grunt or a low growl, they said, would have
buoyed their spirits, rallied them, and made him,
somehow, less than what he was, more human—
comprehensible. They knew him only
as the other, as something that did not
value them as they valued themselves.
We cannot know if what he did, he did
by choice, or if he simply stalked them
like a simple beast scenting simple prey.
Nor can we know, if choosing, he governed
what he did by some blunt morality
of kinship that reduced the pair to meat,
or if in anger or desire he trespassed bounds
and rose to sin. The hikers can tell us nothing
except how it seemed. Some consciousness,
they said, some grim intelligence, seemed
to herd them forward, then stand off to watch
and wait, to observe before hounding them again.
He had no weapon. His body, a mossy boulder
with arms and legs rolling through the trees,
was weapon enough. Death, they knew, if it were
to come from him, would come as a brutal embrace
or a ripping of bone from bone. His presence,
overbearing, turned the holy wild to wilderness,
changed the innocents from pilgrims to refugees.
Through the night, they said, their only life was language. No hurled stone or branch, no threatening gesture slowed the beast. Words, however, whether shouted at his shape or spoken softly to each other, kept him off. They babbled in the dark, found their camp, their cell phone, and their GPS. While the dumb cold circled, they called and called. At dawn the troopers arrived, the bullet, ...