Two Poems, by Walter McDonald.

The Gifts Grandchildren Wrap

We sign and take the box from UPS,
brown paper our daughter wrapped
for her daughter, a yard-long gift

three inches thick. Inside, torn red-
and yellow paper stuck by Jillian
at odd angles, pieces stitched

like jigsaw puzzles jammed together
to make them fit, a Pollock painting.
My wife holds it on her lap and laughs,

picturing Jillian's toddler tongue
licking around, around to place the tape
just so, then shoving to stick it down

for Mamaw and Pop. Inside's a photo of her,
we've heard, framed for hanging.
We'll keep it with others, gladly,

for years--but now, for minutes, this taped
and tangled wrapping is the world,
sand painting we can't bear to shake.

Cougars Alone Near the Tundra

Cougars stay hidden even when they're home,
more wily than coyotes that lope along
after fawns, hoping to find one down
or hobbling. Coyotes stop and watch us
from the tundra, turn tail and trot.

Up past the aspen, cougars work alone.
Not social, like pick-and-shovel miners,
no need for teamwork, muscles and claws
bred to hunt. With cameras and backpacks,
we've aimed tripods at rocks all day.

Patient like them, we wait. Hot coffee cools,
and breakfast seems days ago. By noon,
we whisper, take turns with the telescope.
My wife leans down and checks the lens,
the focus. We've backtracked forty years,

remembering the birth of twins,
when each left home. Our scrapbook of talk
makes time go by, and makes it stop.
For decades, we've shot Montana moose
and grizzlies, a thousand rolls of film

we gave away--but not one mountain lion,
not one we're sure was cat and not a shadow.
Once they see us, they're gone. Today,
we found a rock slide near a cliff, a natural blind.
Tomorrow, while we still can climb, we'll try.

We swear before grandchildren are grown,
we'll snap one sunning herself on rocks
hot as bricks, yawning and arching her back
and blinking, or leaping uphill
with a rabbit dangling for her kits.

Walter McDonald's poems have appeared in Offcourse Issue #10. Walt McDonald was an Air Force pilot, taught at the Air Force Academy, and is the Texas Poet Laureate for 2001.  Some of his recent books are "All Occasions" (U. of Notre Dame Press, 2000), "Blessings the Body Gave" and "The Flying Dutchman" (Ohio State, 1998, 1987), "Counting Survivors" (Pittsburgh, 1995), "Night Landings" (Harper & Row, 1989) and "After the Noise of Saigon" (Massachusetts, 1988.)

His poems have been in journals including APR, The American Scholar, The Atlantic Monthly, First Things, The Journal of the American Medical Association, The London Review of Books, The New York Review of Books, Orion, Poetry and TriQuarterly.

You can see more of his work  at his listing in the web site of the Academy of American Poets, as well as in the "Samples" link of his home page,  You can contact him at


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