Manzanita


If you sleep near the manzanita tonight,
The hunger of the deer and the bear will awaken you.
In the long night, the noise of their hunger
Will surprise you from your dreams of the past
Or perhaps your future, and when you awaken
They will be there.
A buck, two does, flowing up out of the trees,
Awakened you as they pulled the plump berries
From the brittle leaves.
A bear alone comes later,
Old and shuffling humpbacked along the trail.
He digs for grubs around the fallen logs
And wraps his long tongue around the red berries
Of the dark green manzanita
In the soft white moonlight.
You will not sleep.

Their hunger moves them through the night.
The best you can do is join them
Among the manzanitas.
Naked, step quietly between the branches.
Pull your lips back from your teeth,
Pluck the plump berries from the tips.
Feel their roundness with your tongue.
Crush them.
Let their sweet ooze fill your mouth.

Tomorrow you will sleep by the stream:
Water from the melting snow high above you
Flowing over many stones. Last year’s snow
Singing in its rush to tomorrow’s sea.
Lost in its promise, you will sleep.
You will not hear the bear or the deer.
Their moment of hunger will not trouble you.
In your dreams you flow with the stream to the sea,
Where the sunlight glistens on the wind-stirred water
And you hear only the waves,
Only the sound of waves.
 
By Ron Harton