Hugh Glass lay in a shallow grave
as much to keep his body warm
as quicken interment of his corpse—
his throat laid open, forehead gashed
where frothing jaws had gripped and thrown,
thighbone shattered, buckskins shredded,
breathing labored in a grisly scene
presided over by John Fitzgerald
and a 19-year-old named Bridger.
Five days of bleeding swoon had not yet passed.
The warring Ree had not yet moved upstream;
Bridger and Fitz would yet abandon Glass
to escape and claim their eighty-dollar fee.
Hugh had not yet roused from death-throe shock,
and maggots had not cleaned his festering wounds.
He had not limped and crawled 200 miles
in two entortured months to Fort Brazeau.
He had not yet passed fifty grizzled years
only to perish in battle with other Arikara
above the banks of the Yellowstone River.
His tale had yet to be told and retold
around mountain rendezvous bonfires
or in frontier journals and dimestore novels,
enhanced and embellished by Huston,
or transformed into melodramatic revenge
by Iñárritu and Leonardo DiCaprio.
No. Yet Hugh Glass will always lay
in a shallow grave as much to prove
the myth of men’s indomitable will
as to keep his failing legend warm.
It took fifteen souls—their flint and steel,
powder, lead, and long-barreled Hawkens—
to subdue the griz who took Glass down.
Write no obit for Ursus arctos horribilis.