Steve Scafidi

For the Last American Buffalo

Because words dazzle in the dizzy light of things
and the soul is like an animal–hunted and slow–
this buffalo walks through me every night as if I was
some kind of prairie and hunkers against the cold dark,
snorting under the stars while the fog of its breathing
rises in the air, and it is the loneliest feeling I know
to approach it slowly with my hand outstretched
to tenderly touch the heavy skull furred and rough
and stroke that place huge between its ears where
what I think and what it thinks are one singing thing
so quiet that, when I wake, I seldom remember
walking beside it and whispering in its ear quietly
passing the miles, the two of us, as if Cheyenne or
the lights of San Francisco were our unlikely destination
and sometimes trains pass us and no one leans out hard
in the dark aiming to end us and so we continue on
somehow and today while the seismic quietness of
the earth spun beneath my feet and while the world
I guess carried on, that lumbering thing moved heavy
thick and dark through the dreams I believe we keep
having whether we sleep or not and when you see it
again say I’m sorry for things you didn’t do and
then offer it some sweet-grass and tell it stories
you remember from the star-chamber of the womb
or at least the latest joke, something good to keep it
company as otherwise it doesn’t know you are here
for love, and like the world tonight, doesn’t really
care whether we live or die. Tell it you do and why.

Steve Scafidi
For the Last American Buffalo is reprinted from Sparks from a Nine-Pound Hammer (LSU, 2001).
Poem, copyright © 2001 by Steve Scafidi
Appearing on From the Fishouse with permission
Audio file, copyright © 2005, From the Fishouse