The White-Tailed Deer

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for Anthony Hecht

He’s sitting in the dirt where no grass grows since the big ash tree fell, riddled with borers:             a buck, dull, fat, confused. He stands and turns and lies back down again, his gray the gray of chalk or sloughed off skin,       his regal choir of horns tuned to the cold edges of air after a storm.                   Poor, ruined king,

your sycophants and your soldiers are gone, the slant of your aristocratic stare             now fixed on foreign ground; no paths, no scrub, nowhere to bed. If there are images, like promises,       which well up in your mind, of woods embroidered by high streams and banks of cress,                   ebullient saxifrage,

their deepening purples in late-day shade carpeting the rolling forest floor,             they have no referent here. Here there are crumbling walls of local stone, high fences, asphalt tributaries, their       angry river gods flashing past, bright chrome satellites, each gleaming blur                   streaming out of sight.

There for an hour. Then one more after that— uncertain sharer. Now your size and your senses             are gaudy deficits, impostures, vain supposings, more aligned with dearth than with survival, wounds without       a gash. I hear a crash, and when I check the yard again there’s just the rusty                   stain of mud and it’s gone.