Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Daybreak, Drought

by Joe Cottonwood

Sun rises in a dry sky,
we walk a dirt road,
the dog and I.
Rounding a bend
little Mickey halts,
one paw lifted.

Three deer—a buck, a doe, a fawn—
senses ablaze with the twitch of ear,
quiver of nose, blink of eye
take our measure.

The buck has a handsome rack
but I can see ribs, count the bones.
I once saw a doe maul an Aussie shepherd, cracking
the skull with her forelegs to protect a fawn.
Mickey with uncommon good judgment
stays frozen by my ankle.

A moment, mild,
of silent negotiation,
the domestic and the wild.
With such hunger the fawn, at least,
might eat from my hand
before the buck spears me.

The doe breaks first, up a hillside so vertical
her hooves can’t hold. She slides back,
then on a switchback leaps again
followed quickly by the fawn
as the buck remains, impassive and supreme,
gentleman and protector,
what you wish in your own father, frankly,
and then he follows with that head-bobbing walk
balancing antlers into the parched brush
holding our gaze until vanished.

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