Backed by blue sage, evening, and the hardy wild green
of hay, their strong brown sides and antlers are barely
visible from this distance, barely a fact. The older men see
them without binoculars, recognizing the spots where the valley
has subtly changed since yesterday, since twenty years before.
The elk play elk games; the men gather nightly and count them.
Tonight there are ten cows and a bull. I squint until my eyes are sore.
Someone mourns that the elk leave a week before the season opens,
marvels that they return when it's safe, wondering what they know.
Grandfather turns in awe at this, then to the elk. Says he sees
that there are two types of familiar, one for the town
and one for the field. Silence until the sun drops completely.
I steady my field glasses, giving the beasts the names I know.
I pray aloud that, come next evening, I'll remember at least a few.