browsing category: Poetry

PoetryWinter/Spring 2024

Anne Haven McDonnell — Just before dark,

they threaded down
the mountain, and through
their bodies, the mountain moved.
Carrying last light in the rough fur
of their backs, pale against dark-swallowing
leaves, they made streams that drained
light down to the valley floor.
The mountain emptied this way, unfurled
through steady hooves of the herd.
It was a fluid thing, necessary
as any artery filled with blood.
In the field, one by one from shade
of oak and cottonwood, they stepped out
each unto themselves for a moment
before rejoining the current of herd
which pooled in late grass, growing
deeper as each elk waded in—
knee-deep on grown ones, belly-
deep on the young. They moved
together and apart like bees,
a swarm of dispersal and gathering
with small eruptions when two lifted
onto rear legs and clattered hooves
in circling percussion with each other,
or when one young wandered out
of the current, and with a jolt
scampered back to lose the sudden
aloneness in their limbs.
               There were people here too,
quiet and drinking this last light
that unzipped from the mountain’s belly
through the line of elk. Some of us
parched with thirst. Some made
low sounds that surprised us
in our throats. Some reached
out to hold an elbow or lean a knee
on the one beside. We opened
our hands on the ground
to steady ourselves. Now
and then the elk looked at us
and deciding against fear,
they grazed, carrying the valley
back up the mountain



Anne Haven McDonnell lives in Santa Fe, NM and teaches as an associate professor of Creative Writing at the Institute of American Indian Arts. A recipient of a 2023 NEA Creative Writing Fellowship in Poetry, she is the author is Breath on a Coal from Middle Creek Press and the chapbook Living with Wolves from Split Rock Press. Her poetry has been published in Orion Magazine, Academy of American Poets Poem-a-Day, The Georgia Review, Narrative Magazine, and elsewhere. Anne Haven holds an MFA from the University of Alaska, Anchorage. She helps edit poetry for the online journal

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