Each foot fall is greeted with a soft scrunch of dried leaves.
I wander with slow intent through empurpled puckerbrush,
a revelry of approaching winter chill in a country gone quiet.
On a hushed walk through boreal woods, autumnal leaves
shimmer as yet another season come to a lamentable close.
I am not alone here for I know the grouse are keeping still,
hunkered as they do in their deep coverts before venturing
out to feed on insects, dried berries and catkins once green
now frosted and withered as each day shortens into darkness.
They dust themselves along logging skids through undergrowth,
searching for grubs then winging into sparse aspen branches,
where they remain safely camouflaged in their high leafy refuge.
I watch as a brace of goshawks circle above in their sky dance
on thermals, dipping low behind hardwood and jack pine to rise again
bold and rapacious, red eyes scanning for movement far below,
flashes of color matching the ground cover of their killing field.
Twigs snap under foot and a pair of hens flush on drumming wings.
They swiftly scatter into the dense woodlands in the near distance.
The goshawks follow their flight with trenchant interest,
their beaks and talons formidable, fierce terpsichoreans,
they and the fleeing grouse join in a deadly pas de deux.
Steven B. Rogers is originally from Chicago. A retired forensic and human rights historian, he presently works as an independent historian and research consultant based in Washington, DC. He is the editor of A Gradual Twilight: An Appreciation of John Haines (CavanKerry, 2004) and his essays, criticism, reviews, and poems have appeared in earlier issues of Gargoyle, and in other publications, including Down East, The Thomas Wolfe Review, Pembroke Magazine, Steinbeck Studies, and the Frank Lloyd Wright Quarterly. He and his wife of 48 years reside in historic Mount Rainier, Maryland and spend a great deal of time in Maine and Florida.