Pat Tompkins


Gathering on an autumn afternoon along tawny hills

above the Pacific on a narrow peninsula, poised along

a groove in the ground, diverse in size and age, drab

in duns and tans of outdoor gear: They have driven and hiked

miles for snapshots of nature at a remove. In a valley at their feet:

a harem of elk ruminating as one bull elk, antlers exceeding

epaulets, circles, keeping order. Across from the binocular-eyed

line, two other bulls rest in grass.


Through the ranger’s telescope, each person squints at stoic,

magnificent elk, shimmering tones of brown in the haze.


Among the observers, a hunter speaks loudly, sharing his experience

unbidden. How much he knows. And how little—ignoring

what’s needed here: silence.

Image by Byron Johnson

Pat Tompkins is an editor in northern California. Her poems have appeared in Dwarf Stars, Sunlight Press, Channel, and other publications.

About the Artist