I remember my father
Cursing at prairie dogs
For fear of snapping the cannons
Of his best stock horses.
We were not allowed
To ride the ridge after dusk;
So we walked, instead.
There after the howling,
The burrowing owl,
His yellow eyes gleaming
From the spiked mounds,
Nested the elaborate tunnels.
The prairie dogs were silent now,
Chambered beneath the bluestem,
As we drove the cattle in a wide
Arc around the sleeping town.
It was the ferruginous hawk
My father blessed for its swift strike,
Its devolving circles to prey,
Its intricate nests on tall bluffs.
Under the rising bands of sweat
On his seasoned Stetson,
My father’s eyes were the azure sky
Reflecting the predator’s strike.
Still, they called the prairie dog
The keystone species
For its disturbance of grassland,
Its link in the eco-chain.
Because of his admiration for the swift fox,
The golden eagle, and the horned lark,
My father knew to bulldoze the prairie watchtowers
Would only break another canon.
Copyright © 2008 Mary Dixon. All rights reserved.