“Herd Of Buffalo Crossing The Missouri On Ice” by William Matthews
Poetry 180: A Poem a Day for American High Schools, Hosted by Billy Collins, U.S. Poet Laureate, 2001-2003
Herd Of Buffalo Crossing The Missouri On Ice
If dragonflies can mate atop the surface tension of water, surely these tons of bison can mince across the river, their fur peeling in strips like old wallpaper, their huge eyes adjusting to how far they can see when there's no big or little bluestem, no Indian grass nor prairie cord grass to plod through. Maybe because it's bright in the blown snow and swirling grit, their vast heads are lowered to the gray ice: nothing to eat, little to smell. They have their own currents. You could watch a herd of running pronghorn swerve like a river rounding a meander and see better what I mean. But bison are a deeper, deliberate water, and there will never be enough water for any West but the one into which we watch these bison carefully disappear.
from Selected Poems and Translations 1969-1991, 1992
Houghton Mifflin, New York, NY
Copyright 1992 by William Matthews.
All rights reserved.
Reprinted by permission of Houghton Mifflin from Selected Poems and Translations 1969-1991, 1992. Copyright 1992 by William Matthews. For further permissions information, contact Ronald Hussey, Permissions Manager, Houghton Mifflin, 215 Park Avenue South, New York, NY 10003.
About the Poet
William Matthews (1942–1997) was the author of 11 poetry collections, including Time and Money (1996), winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award. Search Party: Collected Poems of William Matthews, was published posthumously by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in 2004.
Learn more about William Matthews at The Poetry Foundation.