Winter Migration

after a photograph by Joel Sartore

There is something familiar about the buck,
straining to ease himself under
the bottom strand of a barbed-wire fence,
his lavish belly grazing the earth,
his forward gaze intent, one
foreleg folded, one extended in a gesture
both awkward and urgent.

Something about
the way he is fixed, caught on a threshold
of becoming, as if, if he could, he would shed
his body, emerge on the other side of the fence
as pure spirit.

When Steven lay dying, his gaze
turned inward as he drifted, his body laboring
to follow. I pressed my lips to his ear.
Go, I whispered, go, go.

I cannot turn away
from the image of the buck, his winter
migration, the view through a narrow aperture.
Close and distant. I can smell the scent
of his musk, I can feel the heat of his flank.
From horizon to horizon the sky fills
with light. He glitters in snow and shadow.

—From “Seaworthy,” @ 2018 River Rock Books

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