Antilocapra americana

Shelley Armitage

Antelope and I


You see me

of course—

before I see




But then


     as I walk


a sage fringed trail


up the draw


     and down




     a shared animal presence?


—makes me look west:


See you.



                                         Even at seventy-five yards


                                         your bold white chest,


                                                         radiant exception


                                         to the plains gone dun,


                                         cures my near-sightedness.



You, on the other hand, can spot movement up to three miles away.




Pronghorn, kwahada, antilocapra americana,


neither antelope nor deer,


          (your closest living cousin, the






assures you persist—


hollow hairs, your antifreeze for winter,


camouflaged coat, butterscotch


stripes and all.


Side set eyes catching worlds


     in their orbs.


Long lashes like sunshades.


Nervous, curious—




Pleistocene genes


still bolt, then stand.






           this is fossil fuel:


your ancient bloodline remembers


ghosts of grasslands, chaparral, and cacti.


At speeds of over fifty miles an hour you




sliding under on knees,


mocking the wisdom


of barbed wire.




But I’m exotic,


am I not?


Old checkered farm coat,


sagging sleeves, baggy warm-ups


a whiff of acrid humanness?


The unwashed.


Best tolerated upwind.




I am held at a distance


     by your gaze.




We used to talk to animals


    or was it that animals once talked to us—


until evolutionary changes in the trachea


made one claim superiority over the other.




But if you were the carnivore


I would offer myself up


even as you did to the old Zuni


            line to the heart


            prayer over horns




Instead, I can only say in a stillness beyond thought:


I would be the grass before you.





Shelley Armitage is professor emerita at the University of Texas at El Paso.  She stewards the family grasslands near Vega, Texas where the antelope still roam.