The Stag by Frank McMahon
A raven’s flight splits the rising sun.
A curlew sings.
Their scent comes through cracks in the sky.
The stag turns his head searching for direction
in the compass of his gaze,
moves beyond sight to lower ground
of streams and quags. He turns.
The crest of the hill brims with silent hounds.
Their breath steams, tongues wash the air.
He stumbles, moving uphill
to find the ridge, bellows as if in rut.
The morning throbs with fear and lust.
Too many to resist. Plangent,
a long bass note echoes
in the chamber of his throat.
Masked riders lead the hounds away.
An entry in the hunting book.
On grass and ling
a darkening smear of blood.
*This poem won second prize in the Wild Nature competition run by Indigo Dreams in 2021.