Memory tells him there is grass here
but when the hungry stag lowers his head
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.
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.
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,