A moose had stranded herself shoulder-deep in the bog last fall, at the southerly end of Long Pond. Of course, a car in the mud is one thing, a foundered moose another. One is a matter of inconvenience, the other of life or death. The animal was helpless, paralyzed.

Fish and Game officers came out with block and tackle but they couldn’t even reach her. Should they have let nature take its course? Not by my lights. It was a kindness to shoot that poor creature dead, leaving her there for the ravens.

I can almost hear the officers’ words. “There was nothing else we can do.” I surmise a good deal of melancholy in that declaration.

Forget your Disney movies: the so-called course of nature is often, perhaps usually, cruel as can be. So yes, I’m glad that the moose didn’t live on to drown in the muck. What a death. Her great head dropped to the water, a hole behind each eye, her foot-long dewlap splayed among the pickerel weed. The dark, ever-garrulous birds started to gather right off.

Or so I say. I wasn’t there. The only part of that moose I ever saw, a ribcage, came almost eight months later when I came to paddle the pond for what’s called recreation. Now I recreate from some bones and from hearsay what I figure must have unfolded. How close am I to the truth? I haven’t asked anyone.

Something in me, you see, is always in search of a story, the more dramatic the better. Musing’s often my muse, to give it a fancy name, and I don’t like to have it curtailed.

Whatever you do, don’t trust me. I don’t even trust myself as imagination gallops from one inventive move right on to another. I may be driving along and the regular whups of pavement seams will trigger a memory, maybe a bass drum’s thump in a jazz club back in my twenties. And if it doesn’t, who’ll stop me here from saying it does?

A former Pulitzer finalist, Sydney Lea served as founding editor of New England Review and was Vermont’s Poet Laureate from 2011 to 2015. He is the author of twenty-three books: a novel, five volumes of personal and three of critical essays, and sixteen poetry collections, including, most imminently What Shines (Four Way Books, NYC, 2023). In 2021, he was presented with his home state’s Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts.

Photo by Dinty W. Moore