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Sleeping With the Buffalo

by Amy Locke

I wanted to touch them so badly,
bury my spindly searching fingers
in their shaggy coats
of chocolate foam, maybe cuddle
the little tan baby ones that looked like
the lambs at the petting zoo,
just like little lambs
that had romped in a bowl of cinnamon.

All the campers came out, armed with cameras
and smiles ranging from sprightly to anxious
but all eager to watch the herd as they grazed,
listen for the soft thud of a thousand hooves.

Stay back, they told us. Only look.
Those horns would rip through your chest like tissue paper.

One came into our site once, at night,
as my brothers and I slept
with the smell of campfire in our hair.

It nuzzled the side of our nylon tent with nostrils
as big as teacups, sniffed around and circled
the way tired dogs do, then lay down and slept
for a while beside my parents.

They told us in the morning and we laughed about it,
and saw the spot where the grass was pressed flat
like corn in a crop circle, and it didn't occur to me
for years that they must have been beyond horrified
when they awoke to that snorting and rustling
to find the boulder-sized shadow, and to look back and forth
between it and their children
an arm's length away, sleeping easily,
their breathing faint and feathery,
light as the crumple of tissue paper.

Copyright © 2013 by Amy Locke

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