Into the Wilds

By Darlene Pagán

At the edge of the wetland, the boys
hand me weapons: a curly willow branch,

a clod of dirt, a handful of rocks. Voices
lowered, we make a racket tromping

through brush. It doesn’t matter
that the Yeti live in the Himalayas

and the Northwest is home to bigfoot,
or that neither one of them can pronounce

abominable snowman, or that the kid who swore
they lived behind our house stuffs eraser caps

with liverwurst. They believe the thing
is watching us, has a jaw like a shark,

and can tear a man in two with a swipe of its paw.
Do you believe? Have you seen one? Why are they so mean?

The librarian tells them, There’s no evidence.
Their bus driver insists, No one really knows.

A neighbor says he tracked prints while hunting
elk. His wife says he needs glasses, suggests

the Yeti aren’t mean, just protecting a way
of life, a habitat. The boys scowl, shaking

their heads. On a drive home I tell them,
Maybe it’s just protecting its babies. This they stop

to consider and after snacks and homework,
we’re ankle deep in sludge, wielding sticks,

and holding still as something in the distance
crunches leaves and snaps a branch. They freeze,

mouths falling open, eyes widening as they pull
rocks from their pockets, and whisper that I go first.


Darlene Pagán is the author of a chapbook of poems Blue Ghosts (Finishing Line Press 2011) and a full-length collection, Setting the Fires (Airlie Press 2015). Her poems and essays have appeared in many journals, including Field Magazine, Calyx, Hiram Poetry Review, and Literal Latté, and earned national awards and nominations for Pushcart Prizes and Best of the Net. She teaches writing and literature at Pacific University in Forest Grove, Oregon. She loves the rain, the beach, swimming, hiking, and riding roller coasters with her sons.