The Last Cougar
thirty cougars for killing their livestock.
There I stood by the window in the Cowboy Room
of Tilly’s Boarding House at Service Creek, turned
toward the hunger of the moment, longing for
the scent of lilacs on this cold day of desert spring.
Sunset lit the basalt cliffs.
Below, the John Day River was foaming,
recovering its ice-freeze voice.
I did not need to climb those volcanic cliffs to see
its tawny shape—dog, bobcat—no, a mountain lion
on the switchback between petroglyph and peril.
I waited, breathless, then threw open the window
and wailed the sorrow
in my throat—the mating call
of cougars, pumas, lions—as that magnificent head
turned toward me with gold in his eyes.
©Margaret Chula, Published in Windfall, Autumn 2010