November in the Wilderness Park

We walked in the wilderness park
on a warm November afternoon
and you said
“You can see why poets compare these hills to the body of a woman.”
And I could.
I could see the soft textures and flesh toned curves,
the shadowed folds harbouring life–
the large eared mule deer,
watchful and curious.

We followed an animal trail up a hill where it opened
onto a meadow of thick fescue, gold in the autumn light
and you said,
“This is wealth!”
We sat in the sheltered bowl for a long while,
our faces warmed by the sun
and then, silent as churchgoers we walked down again.

Along the river valley dead leaves clung to grey branches
and rattled like dry bones in the breeze.
The shadows of the hills grew longer and spread overland
like a black tide.

Out of the corner of my eye I see a black dog
running beside me, a black dog, long and sleek,
noiseless as nightfall,
a black dog, keeping his steady pace.

We came, at last, to a cliff
where an expanse of river was framed by the bare branches
of a giant cottonwood tree and
shored in the distance by the sensuous hills,
and you said,
“This is how it was for the pioneers.
Can you imagine?
If you lived here you would have everything you needed–
a good source of water and fertile land to grow your food.”

And I imagine a life full with the sound of moving water
and the cries of hawk and owl.
I imagine a life rich with the smell of earth
and I imagine love
then, as now,
chased by the black dog of November.

~ Marlene Dean

Marlene Dean has lived in Alberta since 1970. A teacher, she has taught both in the public school system and at the University of Lethbridge. Her writing has appeared in publications such as the ATA newsletter and The Lethbridge Herald. Her poem, “Picasso Divorce,” was included in Tesseracts 5, edited by Robert Runte and Yves Meynard.

2 Responses to “November in the Wilderness Park”

  1. I thoroughly enjoyed this piece. The haunting image of the black dog seemed ominous against the quiet landscape.

  2. How beautiful! I DO know this Wilderness Park – and we HAVE walked those trails together with the “black dog” of November “running beside us, noiseless as nightfall, … keeping his pace.”

    My lifespan is being chased by the ‘black dog of November’ now but oh, Marlene, how I treasure those walks in the wilderness that we shared so long ago.

    What a wonderful picture of “love”.

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