A Herd of Bison


It’s mathematics and it’s chemistry and it’s history. Every inhalation contains the same molecules breathed by humans before you. Each breath is likely to have been exhaled by Galileo. I remember feeling obliquely cold, as if the chill of early December was a housefly, and I had shooed it. Following an untimely but long-coming breakup, I was driving aimlessly around the Midwest. The entire week had been an exercise in impulsivity; I had packed enough clothes for two days and I was going on day five and my fourth full tank of gas. My electronics were dead or dying for lack of a signal, and my tires were struggling on the snowy gravel, but I parked anyway. I wanted to learn what this gazebo had to teach me about birds. Instead I found myself looking over a herd of bison, freckled with deer, grazing, tiny and hallowed and whole.

A year before that I had just broken up with a different boyfriend. It was bigger, messier. It wasn’t falling out of orbit, it was gravitational collapse, a black hole in my formerly heliocentric life. It wasn’t beautiful in the way the bison were. But as I stared up at the puckered ceiling, supine on the carpeted floor, I felt the same. I spent a lot of time on the floor those days, wallowing, fragile, frightened, ill-equipped to deal with the triggers I was so regularly facing. I had every reason to feel worried. I had every reason to feel scared, alone, uncertain. But everything around me, the carpet, the ceiling, the snow, the bison, everything I might have felt, were of my own creation.

The bison were below me. North America’s largest land animals, and so small I could block them out with the palm of my hand. I watched them at that distance for nearly half an hour. They didn’t notice. They didn’t mind. There they ambled, hooves crunching snow, driven only by the need to satisfy some desire they had no name for. Sunlight bathed them, not in warmth, but in pure, ethereal, icy radiance. I didn’t think I could find this in Ohio.

I didn’t know how they had gotten there. I didn’t know why. I suspected they didn’t either. They only press onward, roaming continuously as they graze, wallowing in the shallow dust bowls of the earth. They shoo the flies in the summer and feel the winter cold obliquely through their fur. I filled my lungs with stinging air. The air the bison exhaled. The air Galileo had breathed.


Briana Forney

Briana Forney is a third year at the Ohio State University, studying English and Creative Writing. Outside of classes, Bri is vice president, editor, and senior staff writer for The Sundial Humor Magazine. Her work was featured in the Autumn 2013 issue of Spires Intercollegiate Arts and Literary Magazine. Bri chooses not to discriminate by genre, writing short and long fiction (including twice completing National Novel Writing Month), creative nonfiction, poetry, Young Adult, comedy, and experimenting with new and strange forms because she believes in the future.