Even now on this rural highway
my arm shoots out
across the passenger seat
whenever I brake for deer.
Out on Riverview on the dark
side of violet, no streetlights
for miles, life can change in a flash.
Watching for night creatures
I round a curve, and a long procession
of does and young bucks
is stopping on the road. I slam my brakes
and reach across but you, of course,
aren’t there. I see the deer,
the embers of their eyes sizing up
the circumstance, and after a breath,
crossing the stage of my beams
off right. I wait,
knowing how animals can straggle
and then rush heedlessly onto the road,
or change their minds and run back.
Sitting in the darkness, seeing only
a small-lit world, I sense it’s okay to proceed.
No way to know for sure. I drag up some
primal faith, keep going, cautiously
believing as the velvet deer
that I’ll make my way home.
I’ve seen in daylight how they flow
and then some leap the fence,
front legs folded, or some dive
between the wires. The last and smallest
can pace along the fence line,
young and undecided, then leap and land
belly on the top barbed wire,
rock for two
seconds, and then, by sheer energy
or prayer, thrust himself over,
his mother trembling,
powerless except to care.