Among Mushers

              — in memory of Charlie Belford, DVM

There is something old and beautiful
about the great dog men of the snow,
cussed, crafty as they are
about their tricks of trade.
Trickery is for them serious business
sacred to the dog god as to the wolf god,
confessed, years later, in mock-serious tones—
slow smiles spreading among granite faces.
Young and fierce, they kept the silence
of snow, the blood-oaths of black cold.
Their hands are scarred like fishermen’s or farmers’.
They’ll trust a good dog before a good man
and a good woman before either.
They share the broke bones and blood sagas
of bull riders. What saved them was a dog
or their wits, or some goddamned good luck.
What you feel, even if you’re not one of them,
is flint and fire, laughter out of cold stars.