I brake. In the chill mist,
a cow elk crosses the road,
big and dark.
She is limping
on her right forefoot.
The herd follows, one by one,
One walks as if the pavement
hurts his hind feet, lifting them
goes on three legs,
not touching his right hind
to the pavement at all.
Hoof rot? disease?
Did the whole herd have some close encounter
with dogs? barbed wire? hunters?
One young buck goes by skittish,
a single prong of antlers on his wary head,
watching me as I watch him pass.
Half the herd won’t cross.
They wait, in single file, as if
at a red light,
until I take my turn, my right-of-way,
and go on, uphill.