In appreciation of a champion …

Memory tells him there is grass here

but when the hungry stag lowers his head

snow sticks

to the hairs on his face

and turns to ice

in the bitter chill of night.

 

He has lived high in Ireland’s wild hills

for all his days and can not recall

a winter so relentless.

His thick, fur hide is not enough

to keep the biting cold

from his tired old bones.

 

The old stag seeks shelter from the falling snow

but his weak legs buckle,

and he tumbles.

He smells his own blood and remembers

the sweat and blood of the rutting fields,

and the great battles of old.

 

In his dying mind he is young again.

The evening sun

shines golden light

on his steamy head, hot

from the exertions

of the fight.

 

The last clash of antlers shatters the air.

Bellowing triumphantly

as his adversary retreats,

he claims his hind.

She bears his weight,

and they mate.

 

He knows the stags that he has sired

by the magnificence that ripples

through muscular backs and thickset shoulders to

striking antlers and sturdy heads,

and by their formidable presence,

and commanding stance.

 

After a fight he sometimes lay

in the healing waters of the stream.

He imagines

cold water washing over

his aching body and fevered head,

spreading numb relief.

 

The stag lies in blood-stained snow.

A mighty champion,

the finest beast

these hills have ever seen

closes his eyes,

Spent.

 

©Siobhán McNamara 

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