The Buffalo on Antelope Island

Written by  Katherine Coles
Buffalo roundup, Antelope Island Buffalo roundup, Antelope Island Salt Lake City Tribune

 

                       The Great Salt Lake, 1994

There are no buffalo on Buffalo Point--

just the stunning elevation

into midsummer heat, rock, and scrub.

And the signs, Bison Can Be Dangerous:

though the buffalo are penned,

dusty and bored, to save us from desire

 

to approach their wildness, and touch.

A horn could tear a body throat to crotch,

has gutted tourists before, who buddied up

for the perfect snapshot, of themselves

and their closest friends, the buffalo.

Bison can be dangerous, can overtake you

 

before you know it, tiny hooves moving

a ton of flesh into unstoppable force

that carried them even here.  Not these,

trucked across a man-built causeway,

but their authentic ancestors.  They appeared

 

from receding, prehistoric waters

by transmutation.  No, they swam,

floating all that bulk upon the brine.

Such a blue buoying the barren hills,

 

no wonder those first explorers thought

they'd reached the ocean at last, overlooking salt-

dazzled water, horizon of island and mist.

Seven-hundred miles still to go.

There are no antelope on Antelope Island

 

any more, as far as the eye can see.

The buffalo inhabit what we give them:

one word, another, a bare island, their pen.

Bodies at rest.  And the buffalo

on Antelope Island are boring,

 

as only the truly bored can be.  They lack

our imagination.  Even we

have trouble investing them with inner lives,

the outer is so meager, so dusted over.

We hang from the fence into the cloud of flies

 

where the park's contained them.  Next to us,

a boy pelts them with stones.  If they could rise

and eye us from their own, unfenced

place and time, that would be

another story.  Wouldn't it?  And we,

believing in the signs, would keep our distance.

 

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