Down by the Buffalo a willow bends
in an abandoned yard
where summers we trained hard.
Long we were buddies, never such fast friends
as we became after my spirit change,
finally coming around
to faith I now expound,
unlikely candidate. You found it strange
I of all people should return to God
from Whom you never turned.
In your Norse heart He burned.
Hunting together mainly to applaud
Lab after Lab we whelped, hunted and buried,
So many parts in you
I loved (and I still do),
your lealty to the lady whom you married,
your reverence every Sunday we skipped church
to quarter far afield,
bag what the wild would yield,
weaving through trees our perching angels search
to flush pheasants, partridge and sharptails too,
electrify the slogs
of two delighted dogs—
fragrances. We humans don’t have a clue.
Stevie, what can we hope to do this fall
when tree rows are ablaze
on sunny maple days
and from the corn the hungry roosters call?
If I were you, I might just hunt alone,
no need to carry me,
but you’ll need poetry
to bear you forth and back. I can atone
for past excess with every stoic smile,
sandwich, Virginia ham
with Irish cheddar. Will I walk a mile?
That’s all I did last year, undiagnosed,
thinking it was just old age,
writing page after page
as cancer wormed its way into its host.
Best hope? Chucky lives out his life with me,
his five or six more years
in which laughter or tears
wrung from my rare readers are my fee
for a long life in which we’ve been best friends,
in which we’ve knelt and played
with puppies, knelt and prayed
for a good hunt, and then my story ends.