Size / / /

The hunters run

no game remains close to camp

out here the trees are sparse but the grass

is taller

it is possible to ambush

the fleet herd creatures the slow and heavy

behemoths prepare them in the field

but just as the best cutter

prepares to make his first incision

I hear. . . something something heavy running

toward us, the swish swish of the grass

the only sound I sound

the alert then run we all run

Cutter stays to snatch a couple

cuts of meat but now I hear

harsh calls the calls of birds

they are 2, 3, many birds

calling and running running and hunting

I am slow one of my legs

was cursed and didn't grow enough

but I am faster than Cutter

strong Cutter but laden with meat and I see the birds

Axebeaks bobbing above the tall grass

stiff feathers of azure and tangerine

making warmasks of their faces.

I see them running

and they see Cutter.

I return by secret paths to the campsite

I arrive empty-handed and alone

but creeping silently upwind

I do not smell blood

I do not find females

their bellies spilling open

I do not find small ones

headless in the ruins of my tent

it is not like last year.

David C. Kopaska-Merkel won the 2006 Rhysling Award for a collaboration with Kendall Evans, edits Dreams & Nightmares magazine, and has edited Star*Line and several Rhysling anthologies. His poems have appeared in Asimov’s, Strange Horizons, and elsewhere. A collection, Some Disassembly Required, winner of the 2023 Elgin Award, is available from him at
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