The Cook Fire
There is this demon in my lower brain.
Call him the Devil. Call him Charlie
He guzzles alcohol to dull his pain
and rustles calves beside the Little Mussel.
Why is he pained? Perhaps because the sky
is scared to call the badland its horizon.
Perhaps because a pony on the fly
shies from the shorthorns of a painted bison.
One of the Russells hanging in my head
captures the struggles of a grizzly bear,
twice-roped, spread-eagled, kicking apart a bed
of coals and ashes in his huge despair.
What overcomes insensate fear of fire?
Abandon, or invincible desire?
Author's note: C.M.
Russell was a Montana artist
who died of alcoholism in 1926.
Very Far North, The Waywiser Press, London,
2002. Reprinted by permission of the author.