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Men Who Stay

A poem about friendship and kinship with nature

BirdNote writer Todd Peterson reflects on his friend, a hunter, from Nebraska. Todd’s friend, who has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, has lost the urge to hunt. He sits in the duck blind, but he does not shoot . . .

Full Transcript

Transcript: 

BirdNote®
Men Who Stay 
Written by Todd Peterson

This is BirdNote. 

Today, BirdNote writer Todd Peterson reflects on his friend, a hunter, from Nebraska. Todd’s poem is “Men Who Stay.”  

His eyes are deep set, brown
his knuckles knobby
as he knits his hands
around a knee
and tells me,
“It’s been a hard year,”
the year since I saw him last
along the Platte

He sat in the duck blind then
and said,
“I’ve lost the urge to hunt.
I’m trying to get it back.”

Now he carries his
rusty stovepipe of a shotgun
broken open-backed
across his shoulder.
He does not shoot.
Sits in the blind.
Drinks coffee.
Talks.

He feels deeply the knowledge
that wild geese mate for life.

Wading across the river
at the end of the day
I see him
tipping out corn
to coax and succor
a wounded goose.

In another room
his wife tells me,
“In the middle of talking,
he goes blank.

Last week
we took him up to Mayo’s.
They told us,
‘Alzheimer’s,
the early stages.’”
Now he looks to her
to finish his sentences.

I’m leaving the ranch house again
for another year
when he arrives in his old truck
to take away the garbage.

He says,
“I’ll see you next year.”
Who, I wonder, will I see?

And even though it’s right on top,
it takes him minutes
to find the switch
and just before I go
he gets down on his knees
and vacuums the river sand
from the carpet
of my rented car.

       ###

Calls of Canada Geese [138586] recorded by G F Budney, provided by The Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York.
BirdNote’s theme music was composed and played by Nancy Rumbel and John Kessler.
Producer: John Kessler
Executive Producer: Dominic Black

© 2016 Tune In to Nature.org            Narrator: Mary McCann 

ID#  hunter-02-2015-11-30 hunter-02

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