People say they have seen them
looming dim and immense, on snowy roads,
or lifting mournful faces, bearded
with waterweeds, from boggy clearings.
Once a gnarled shape was glimpsed
ploughing across the river,
dwarfing the lobster boat in its wake: a moose
returning to the swamp where it had browsed unseen
for years, only its great hoofprints
The swamp lies on the blind side
of the town with its
T.V. antennas, pick-up trucks,
frozen pizzas in the dusty grocery.
Lobster boats named Lucy D. and Mermaid
work the traps, clammers fan out
over mud flats at low tide, a chain saw
whines and snarls in the woods.
Between the graveyard and the dump
the road doubles back and circles,
skirting the swamp.
Truants play there, stained
with blackberry juice,
stung by deer flies. They wade out
to pick waterlilies, the stems
and their caps are stuck with nighthawk feathers
speckled like dead leaves. Salamanders
and liverworts soak their pockets, to wilt later
in peanut butter jars.
Every snapping of twigs
is a great beast approaching,
but the moose, if there is one,
makes itself invisible, a tangle
of branches, a hump of earth.
It ranges an unmapped landscape
older than man's: paths into deeper
more rooted forests, crossed
seldom, by chance.