Rebecca Foust

Election Returns 2016

The way up the mountain was like always: 
switchbacks & more switchbacks, 
the trail rising through redwoods arced 
over a silence rinsed with new rain. 
We were in an emerald world 
of fern & mist & moss trembled 
with tiny glass beads. It was dusk 
and late fall. We knew
what would happen & in what order: 
we’d be made to suffer for a few hours
before reaching the summit
then would emerge above the fog.

Yes, there were portents: maple leaves 
pasting the trail with bloody handprints, 
evergreens brittle & brown, a few 
manzanita oddly in bloom. Lake water 
like pewter, faint reek of smoke 
we hoped came from a controlled burn. 
We went on walking the trail 
by memory, memory that also held rain 
after drought & wild iris massed like stars. 

We walked till we came upon what was left 
of the deer: a white basket of rib cage 
that looked almost human, matted fur, 
tags of torn flesh. On the way down, 
it would all become clear, but even 
then we understood: it was a fresh kill, 
and the cougar was close. We looked around 
to see who among us was prey 
and we understood, then, what would happen. 

First published in Zyzzyva.