Chance Encounter

I went walking in the pasture
In late February on a cloudy day.
Not another living creature had I seen
Apart from the solitary raven soaring high
(I see him every day, going about his business).
The snow was deep — eighteen to twenty-four inches —
There was no packed trail, so the going was strenuous.
Tracks of mammals were everywhere:
Coyote, deer, fox, weasel, lynx, rabbit, a moose —
But they had all gone elsewhere.

No place so lonesome as the Manitoba parkland in winter.
It felt prehistoric, if not primordial,
As though no account were taken of sentient beings
Among its hills, sloughs, snow and poplar forest.
As I paused on a down slope, puffing with exertion,
I heard a plaintive cheep and a flutter of wings.
By luck I had binoculars — I peered
At the top of a nearby poplar sapling: saw
A wee feathered mite, a single hoary redpoll,
His crimson forehead lush as a ripe raspberry.

His feathers were puffed against the cold,
He was smaller than the palm of my hand,
Streaked with brown, frosted with white, alone
In all that vast impersonal winter waste.
He stopped whatever it was he had been doing
And fluttered slowly around me a couple of times
Uttering his little peevish-sounding cheep,
Almost as though he felt relieved to see
Another living creature. He went his way then,
And I went mine, with the feeling that we were equals.

— J. Jeffrey Bragg (25 February 2012)

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