for Linda Gregerson
At first only fog lifting off
the snow and snow
sifting through it,
then Pepper pointing to the last
pocket of night among
the densest pines,
each life for an instant
in calm regard of the other, and the deep breath
shuddered—the whomff—the stern
not to startle but warn,
so the big doe stood her ground, then
ran. Or not, she being lame, she being
the solitary deer
four times this week
so close to the house with her three-
footed hobble, her track
with its triplet prints
and unmistakable scuff
where a back leg drags through the drifts.
There’s nothing below
where her slender knee should be.
she has vanished again, shadow among shadows
back to the woods, taking her tattered
rags of breath
and fluff of tail,
the sheltie straining at his leash.
And of that sound,
what can I tell you?—
as a bear’s, drawn up from the gut, chest
broadened until her breath blows out
with great force, plosive
at the nose.
The sound’s like the swumpp of snow sliding
off the eaves, inevitable action-at-
from spring’s slow melt.
The ancients thought such behaviors were
rooted in the nature of things
—arrows dying, a stone in the creek—whose counter-
weight they saw in a floating feather
as in wood, wind,
or the spirit of the doomed and beloved arising.
My hunter neighbor says
the sound is a feature
deer. Not those accustomed to our houses and smells,
our noise, who float quickly among
trash cans and orchards
before we know they’re among us.
It’s the acorns she comes for,
there being nothing to eat
in the woods,
the woods being iced-over, snow-solid, for weeks.
I have found
the gnawed and spat
splatter of hedge apples, that’s how desperate
they are, driven toward us
by too little to forage,
by vanishing trees
and razed fields, by exurbs, by white-
flight and our insatiate hunger for size
and space and tax
advantages. She grubs down,
she snuffles under oaks, blowing back snow
to chew the hard nubbin acorns
though they’re frozen,
and sparse. I have watched her
from my dark window.
I have felt the gravity of the days.
What can I tell you
that you don’t know? Little
remains. We have a new dog, did I say?
his lineage well—from the pastoral herders
of ancient highlands, who
accompanied us, who helped us,
and who from a distance seem almost
—wouldn’t you say it’s still so?—
for Linda Gregerson