Feeding American Bison at the Yellow River Game Ranch
I held my son by his legs, making sure he was secure
on my shoulders as we looked through the fence at bison
abiding in the sludge on the banks of the Yellow River.
Remembering Job and how the Lord spoke to him, saying,
Behold now Behemoth which I made with thee; he is chief
of the ways of God, and only his maker can approach him,
I watched a bison draw near through tires and hay bales,
its great head rocking over black earth, the air reeking
of Kentucky Fried Chicken, chicken shit, and smoke.
It lumbered to the fence, up to the end of PVC, a tunnel
for dropping food, not brought forth by mountains, but bought
at the game ranch country store beneath mounted deer heads,
their antlers bearing off-the-rack dream catchers.
We brought our food from home, though, hidden in a diaper bag,
and so I fed Behemoth baby carrots prepackaged in plastic from Publix;
the great beast that walked the Pleistocene with mammoths and wildcats
waited in the mud by its bowl as I threw it saltines from a disposable sleeve,
laughed as its tongue grazed my hand, watched as its muck-wet snout
nudged the pipe to dislodge a carrot, to shake loose a peanut,
a graham cracker, and lick the sweet crumbs.
As crows flew from a pine, dead and bleached in winter sun,
down to the mire for scraps Behemoth left behind, we walked on
to see whitetail bucks in a chain-link fence, a fox asleep on a picnic table,
a mountain lion lying in the shade of a plastic doghouse shaped like an igloo,
raccoons running like hamsters on a wheel—we walked on,
for it was someone else’s turn to drop food
down the tube for Behemoth, to touch
the reaching tongue of the bison,
to see America in the deep dark
irises, the mud and blood
gathering in its eyes.