So they went with guns and with knives
for the white tails. They crunched dead
leaves as they passed through the Eye of the Needle,
like hunched over camels, all their gear
on their backs, and millions of years
of sandstone arched over head, lichen
creeping down boulders split by Cedar Creek.
Rising up from the tree littered valley
like an ancient dirge is the fog
of the ghost of that French maiden, scarlet
and delirious with Swamp fever,
her grave just below. Early morning,
the winds from another county howl
and swirl in and out of the mouth
of Skull Rock. From behind the turtle rocks
came a black bear, massive head, narrow muzzle
rooting the ground with gripping, rhythmic steps.
The hunters clawed up a rock wall into the mouth
of a cave as the bear drew close a dark shadow
chilling the ground and in the distance
the people of the valley heard rifle burst;
and dark bear blood splattered the trees.
Here I stand now in the hollow next to Bear Cave
in the shadow sandstone. It’s a breezeless
morning, no howling wind, no coolness
on sweat beads, and no dark shadow
to drag across the fallen leaves,
just the empty, voiceless crevice of fog.
About James Dunlap:
James Dunlap is a Creative Writing major at the University of Arkansas. He received an Associates of Art at Pulaski Technical College. He's been published three times through PTC, one piece in the scholarly journal Milestones, and twice in the Literary Journal The View From Here. He received awards for Best Prose and Best Poetry from PTC as well. He has written for the school news paper at UA. Recently, one of his short fiction pieces was published in Sliver of Stone issue 3, one poem was published by Red Fez. A poem is forthcoming in Niche Literary Magazine. He also received honorable mention in the Tails from the South Literary Festival and read the same story for their syndicated radio show.