Sagebrush Kings

The sagebrush kings
with bony crowns
patrol the mountainside,
pacing well-worn paths
and pausing periodically to watch.
Ears high,
eyes straining,
nostrils wide,
they keep their silent vigil.
A sound,
a movement,
an unfamiliar smell
is an invitation to a war
that they can never win.
A huff calls the retreat
into their scrub oak strongholds
where they’ve ruled
for countless seasons
and forged their gaudy diadems
on an anvil made of caution.