We unpacked in Palo Duro Canyon’s
Cow Camp Cabin #3. Roughing it –
unless you count microwave, lights, noisy
window AC. We’d stopped on the way in
for firewood, park brochure warning: Don’t bring
your own: a risk of invasive species
tagging along. We thought of forefathers
who’d invaded this place, drove Comanches
out. A cardinal dipped down to drink at the
dripping hydrant; cottontail paused as we
started up the path, waiting his turn.
Some did not concede defeat so easily.
Vultures circled each morning, waiting for
a misstep. Rat droppings in the fireplace
telegraphed their turf. Come midnight, we bolted
upright, a racket of bumps, crashes, and
clawing scratches at screen calling to mind
every tale of crazed serial killers
creeping into camp. Though the next day’s search
revealed truth—just raccoons hauling corncobs
to cabin’s tin roof—on that night we lay
paralyzed, as native noise, chilling
as any war whoop, drowned out the iced hum
of civilization, marking out our graves.
About the Author: A native Texan, Janice Northerns currently lives in southwest Kansas, where she teaches English at a community college. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in The Laurel Review, Chariton Review, Roanoke Review, Southwestern American Literature, descant, and elsewhere. She received a 2018 Tennessee Williams scholarship to the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, won second place in Southwest Review’s 2017 Marr Poetry Contest, and is a recipient of the Robert S. Newton Creative Writing Award from Texas Tech University. Read more of her poetry here.