A weird halogen light tailgates us from the darkness
as we drive west on Highway 45…
At the wheel is prairie writer, filmmaker and iconographer, Harvey Spak. He calls this poem “Meteor Landing”, one of 43 prosy pieces assembled into a collection called: “The Reign of the English Cowboys IS OVER!” Self-published, it arrived in my post box the other day. Spak and I shot films together in the 1970s.
But back to the poem:
then a storm of blue and green light
and suddenly the entire Vermilion River valley’s
awash in daylight
as if from some great arc-welder.
Three seconds, then darkness.
This meteor sighting made news in the fall of 2008. A celestial blast like that is sure to kick-start a deep thought. Especially in the mind of a mystic.
I say to my wife: according to near-death experience
lore, we’re dead.
But the only dead thing’s a mule deer
riding low in the back of our truck.
Two weeks of seeing nothing till this morning
when a herd of whitetail broke from a coulee
like a phosphorous burst and charged up the hill
to a fenceline some three hundred yards away. I fired
a shot but the bullet just grabbed air as the herd
dispersed into the brush.
A mystic is all about “near-death”. The mystic’s maxim: “Die before you die.” There’s method in their mad search for truth as darkness descends – the unprepared are blinded by the light.
That afternoon we wake from a nap in
the truck and my wife says: Walk south towards
that gap in the ridge.
I take her advice and half a mile later I see a mule deer
buck picking his way through a small ravine. He steps
into the open and stands broadside; a gift from St.
Nicholas the Wonderworker to whom I prayed as I
Spak is a Christian mystic. Mystics of any tradition scorn dogma. As radicals, as existential scientists, they live with as much presence as possible, as close to death as possible. Which is why some of them take out a licence to kill.
My wife brings the truck round and helps field dress
the deer. It’s the first time she’s seen
a fresh kill and she says: I think I’d like to hunt too.
The next day we drive to the Co-op Hardware in
Vermilion and I buy her a .243 Savage Arms rifle with
a scope and some ammo.
But getting back to the mule deer…
Here’s the genius of Spak – he ends his poems on a note that shifts our perspective. These final words, some of them aim for the heart, but others, like this one, strike higher:
But getting back to the mule deer buck. Did he see a
barrage of white light
when my bullet burst his heart?
If you’d like to hear more of Spak’s odes to prairie life and death, please leave a comment.