When I Hit the Young Deer

This happened a few weeks ago as the days grew rapidly short. Deep and dark and tender times are upon us, the turn inward once again. This was a plunge.

When I Hit the Young Deer

It was twilight and the fifth trip
I’d made to town that day.
I was able to say I wasn’t texting,
but I admit only here, I was pulling up an audio file
to learn about the law of attraction,
wore no glasses because I knew the way so well,
zooming thirty-five in a twenty-five,
yes, in my own neighborhood.

I wish I could say even vision-corrected,
speed-limited, phone-not-distracted,
I could never have stopped
for the deer which appeared from the side of the road,
that I couldn’t have prevented the pirouette,
the flash of white underbelly,
the gangly jolt of limbs which leapt
as if pulled up quickly by a puppeteer.

I prefer my first thoughts hadn’t been
what a hassle, knowing I would be late
to pick up my own yearlings, in human terms,
middle schoolers, who so like this youngster,
push the limits daily.
I wish I could have spared the deer mother
who witnessed her babe’s demise,
traded bodies to understand if animals feel anguish.

I regret I brought hardship upon a neighbor,
lovely Connie, who stopped her car and stood with me,
who voiced what I hoped would happen,
I wish it would just die
as the deer laid motionless,
neck splayed, eyes half-closed.
She startled as I did, oh shit,
when it shook off death and sat expectantly,
innocent as a creature in a creche.
Colleen, who went home and cried
the tears I should have.

The deer tried to walk
but crumpled under the broken leg,
pulled itself under a tree farther off the road.
I didn't have the patience, the spiritual tenacity
to creep slowly enough so it would let me
comfort it, so I crouched
beside my car and promised aloud
I would be more careful,
its life was not in vain,
I would always wear my glasses at the very least.
I wish I could have kept my promise
for more than a few days.

A whole cast of actors was suddenly needed,
there were other neighbors to call
and game wardens to consider,
my son and his girlfriend came
to stand vigil until the police arrived
while I drove off to fetch my children.
There was a conversation about what
would happen with the body
and us wanting for a moment to be hunters
so we’d know how to prepare the meat and skin.

I wish I had been the policeman who came
and stood protectively above the deer
until our two cars pulled away,
the headlights releasing their long shadows.
I will always wonder if he used a silencer,
if the deer struggled, if this was the first killing
he made in the line of duty,
if he noticed how I did,
the snorting strained exhale
and the fauna’s ears and nose and eyes
how much bigger than ours,
how more attuned its senses must have been.

I wish, rather than being a suburban mom,
numb with the tasks of domesticity,
I was Artemis, the Greek goddess of the hunt
who killed only for survival,
her chariot pulled by four golden-horned stags,
while a fifth ran free beside her.