It was like forgiveness
when the caribou ran
toward us in the summer dusk, all
their bodies like one body,
a bead of liquid mercury flowing
down the green alpine valley.
We knelt on the damp tundra and
they turned suddenly away from
us, lunged up a snowfield, spilled into
another valley, leaving tufts
of hair, tracks, fresh droppings
burning into the snow.
I wonder now what it would have been like
if they hadn't turned, if they had surged
around us like a river around two stones.
I imagine us plunged into their gusting
breath and musky animal smell, I imagine
the galloping tremble of caribou hoofbeats
sounding in the earth under my knees
and that I extended an arm
to brush coarse flank hair with
my fingertips, and I imagine
that I really was a stone
washed in river water,
my color suddenly
brighter and deeper than
before my submersion.
The mountain silence mends itself.
I am still kneeling with you there
in that possibility, like
two stones on the soggy tundra,
our surfaces wet with deliverance.