The Great Salt Lake, 1994
There are no buffalo on Buffalo Point--
just the stunning elevation
into midsummer heat, rock, and scrub.
And the signs, Bison Can Be Dangerous:
though the buffalo are penned,
dusty and bored, to save us from desire
to approach their wildness, and touch.
A horn could tear a body throat to crotch,
has gutted tourists before, who buddied up
for the perfect snapshot, of themselves
and their closest friends, the buffalo.
Bison can be dangerous, can overtake you
before you know it, tiny hooves moving
a ton of flesh into unstoppable force
that carried them even here. Not these,
trucked across a man-built causeway,
but their authentic ancestors. They appeared
from receding, prehistoric waters
by transmutation. No, they swam,
floating all that bulk upon the brine.
Such a blue buoying the barren hills,
no wonder those first explorers thought
they'd reached the ocean at last, overlooking salt-
dazzled water, horizon of island and mist.
Seven-hundred miles still to go.
There are no antelope on Antelope Island
any more, as far as the eye can see.
The buffalo inhabit what we give them:
one word, another, a bare island, their pen.
Bodies at rest. And the buffalo
on Antelope Island are boring,
as only the truly bored can be. They lack
our imagination. Even we
have trouble investing them with inner lives,
the outer is so meager, so dusted over.
We hang from the fence into the cloud of flies
where the park's contained them. Next to us,
a boy pelts them with stones. If they could rise
and eye us from their own, unfenced
place and time, that would be
another story. Wouldn't it? And we,
believing in the signs, would keep our distance.