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July 2016, vol 12 no 2

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Aron Rothstein

When We Walked in Fields of Gold


Look: grassy hills fall away east to the prairie. Turn and look: the Black Hills rise behind, toward Okawita Paha, where Black Elk dreamed. A mild summer day, a lazy afternoon; the sun on this hillside beckons. Let the bison move on, our work can wait.

black hills uplift
warm prairie grasses
against my back

The heat of the sun, the swish of grass against boots, the resiny incense from scattered stands of pine: all follow the tracker. Three hundred fifty bison on forty-four square miles of park. Some days they can't be found. Where can they possibly be?

prairie trails
on the wind a scent
of bison

August days. Now easily found: one hundred, two hundred – the herd churning, bulls racing, bulls roaring, bulls fighting. All day, all night, the rut plays on.

scuffles and clacks
bison bulls, dakota moon
veiled in rising dust

Yet on that blissful, rolling prairie, concealed in dips and draws, dark scenes of life's tragedy. Even the hills wear down.

bison carcass
I freeze at the rattle
of a snake

Those bright afternoons, those setting suns. And the light; the light liquid, dripping, a presence felt as much as seen. A stillness in the soul. The warm embrace of prairie and sky, there on the hills, found as easily as the rutting herd. Where are they, those remembered days? Hidden in their misty landscape, but now and then the tracker finds the spoor.

meadowlark song
through flaxen grasses
a bison trail

black hills gold
prairie grass glows
in evening sun


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