The God of Love by George Macbeth

The musk-ox is accustomed to near-Arctic conditions. When danger threatens, these beasts cluster together to form a defensive wall or a ‘porcupine’ with the calves in the middle. ~Dr. Wolfgang Engelhardt, Survival of the Free 

I found them between far hills, by a frozen lake.

On a patch of bare ground. They were grouped

In a solid ring, like an ark or horn. And around

Them circled, slowly closing in,

Their tongues lolling, their ears flattened against the wind,

A Whirlpool of wolves. As I breathed, one fragment of bone

and

Muscle detached itself from the mass and

Plunged. The pad of the pack slackened, as if

A brooch had been loosened. But when the bull

Returned to the herd, the revolving collar was tighter. And

Only

The Windward owl, uplifted on white wings

In the glass of air, alert for her young,

Soared high enough to look into the cleared centre

And grasp the cause. To the slow brain

Of each beast by the frozen lake what lay in the cradle of the

crowned

Heads of horn was a sort of god-head. Its brows

Nudged when the ark was formed. Its need

Was a delicate womb away from the iron cellar

Of death, a cave in the ring of a horn

Their encircling flesh had backed with fur. That the collar of

death

Was the bone of their own skulls: that a softer womb

Would open between the far hills in a plunge

Of bunched muscles: and that their immortal calf lay

Dead on the snow with its horns dug into

The ice for grass: they neither saw nor felt. And yet if

That hill of fur could split and run–like a river

Of ice in thaw, like a broken grave–

It would crack across the icy crust of withdrawn

Sustenance and the rigid circle

Of death be shivered: the fed herd would entail its under-fur

On the swell of a soft hill and the future be sown

On grass, I thought. But the herd fell

By the bank of the lake on the plain, and the pack closed,

And the ice remained. And I saw that the god

In their ark of horn was a god of love, who made them die

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