The Monday Poem: ‘Herd Of Buffalo Crossing The Missouri On Ice’ by William Matthews

The Monday Poem is brought to you by Professor Jim Gormley of the English Department. Enjoy!

Herd Of Buffalo Crossing The Missouri On Ice

If dragonflies can mate atop the surface tension
of water, surely these tons of bison can mince
across the river, their fur peeling in strips like old

wallpaper, their huge eyes adjusting to how far
they can see when there's no big or little bluestem,
no Indian grass nor prairie cord grass to plod through.

Maybe because it's bright in the blown snow
and swirling grit, their vast heads are lowered
to the gray ice: nothing to eat, little to smell.

They have their own currents. You could watch a herd
of running pronghorn swerve like a river rounding
a meander and see better what I mean. But

bison are a deeper, deliberate water, and there will 
never be enough water for any West but the one
into which we watch these bison carefully disappear.

—William Matthews

William Matthews’s poetry has earned him a reputation as a master of well-turned phrases, wise sayings, and rich metaphors. Much of Matthews’s poetry explores the themes of life cycles, the passage of time, and the nature of human consciousness. A couple of his poems have been likened to “deep image” poems, which allow one strong image to dominate each poem and to evoke many strong feelings and associations. Writing in the Bloomsbury Review, Christopher Merrill identified Matthews as “one of our most alert and engaging poets.”