At the 100-year-old National Elk Refuge
near Jackson Hole, we might ask,
How long does an elk live?
Who’s an old elk here?
We’d like to spend time
with an elder elk please.
Tell us how to balance our lives
on this hard edge of human mean,
mean temperatures, what we do and don’t
want to mean.
Closing the door
to the news will only make you
stupid, snapped my friend
who wanted everyone to know as much
as she did. I’m hiding in old school books
with information we never used yet.
Before I drove, before I flew,
before the principal went to jail.
Sinking my eyes into tall wooden
window sashes, dreaming of light
arriving from far reaches,
our teacher as shepherds,
school a vessel of golden hope,
you could lift your daily lesson
in front of your eyes,
stare hard and think,
this will take me
somewhere. O histories of India,
geological formations of Australia,
ancient poetries of China, Japan,
someday we will be aligned in a place
of wisdom, together.
Red deer, wapiti, running elk rising
above yellow meadows at sundown.
An elk bows her head. In the company
of other elk, she feels at home.
And we are lost on the horizon now,
deeper into the next century than we
can even believe,
and they will not speak to us.
Naomi Shihab Nye