Nate Brown is Looking for a Moose
Shrouded in fog, dignified and reticent: a moose.
When Ross White goes outside in Vermont,
he sees one immediately.
When Jamaal May goes outside, he sees one as well.
As if they are everywhere.
But when Nate Brown goes outside, he sees
only the absence of a moose, spaces
where one might have stood but no longer stands.
He’s been hoping to see one for years.
So he practices his moose call and nothing happens.
He stands tiptoe, on one leg,
narrows his eyes. Nothing happens.
What he has now is a mission, a quest
a calling that can’t be denied.
It’s dusk and he stares into the dark. The world
is full of dogwoods and elm trees, and behind the branches,
ten thousand more—all leafy and stupid
and yielding no answers.
What do I mean? I mean
despite everything, we might search
for something and never find it.
When I was a teenager, several of my friends
suddenly found God.
I tried, but found only pocket lint and angst.
The loser of some holy scavenger hunt,
the last to cross the finish line,
kneeling in church, whispering
to heaven: Dude, where are you?
What made it worse was everyone’s conviction.
The candles and prayer groups,
the smugness of their repeating, Well, you know,
if you look behind you and see only one set of footprints—
What makes Nate Brown’s quest equally difficult
is how our friend Chip Cheek leans back in his chair
and says, Oh Man—out here they grow big as dinosaurs.
And how Kellam Ayers’s eyes fill with mist
when she nods and says, Yes, they’re almost magical.
And so a man goes back into the fields
and tries not to move. Goes
out to the forest and tries not to move. Goes
down to the river
and pretends he’s part of that river.
He is a stone, a branch, a fallen maple leaf.
He is (sort of) patient
and he’ll see this thing or hold his breath forever.
I think of myself as a teenager and how
I’m no different now.
At home, my wife has a numbness, a weakness that spreads
through her body and no doctors
can figure it out. When she sleeps,
I’m afraid of everything and I pray into her hair
like I’m young again
on my knees in a church, in search of an answer.
Sometimes I go outside and the dark is so prodigious—
the way it remedies everything by covering everything.
I like thinking of how my friend stares
down this same darkness
as if it will offer the index to some temporal secret.
What we’re looking for are miracles.
there could be nothing.
Or there could be antlers and hooves.
They plod across the quiet fields.
“Nate Brown is Looking for a Moose” first appeared in Poetry Northwest, Summer & Fall Issue, 2014,