The Stealth of Deer

White_tailed_deer_NebraskaThe deer traffic here,
The deer from the forest
With their considerable bodies, they cross, stepping
Soundlessly through camp,
As if possessing some magic

Over mounds of brown dry leaves, littered fallen branches
Without a crunch or snap, without even a sigh

Though the dog occasionally catches
A whiff, her snout arching upward, on the air
Apparently, they have a scent undetectable
To me, nose-blind

Their single file hoofsteps have pressed bruised lines
Into green shoots on the side of a path
Tracks give them away, lead to shady spots
Under purple blossoms,
Where I envision hidden fawns, like baby birds
In ground nests, sheltered, secret
Snowy spots on their fur to match
A sun-dappled forest floor,

You hide in the shadows
Turn a gentle look at me
With some trust and some distrust
As fleeting as
The white tail that follows the tawny flanks
Into the blackness of the woods.

They become accustomed, after time,
To our faces on the deck
Our curiosity, our wide eyes-and hush
We speak in whispered clocks
“She’s at your two o’clock”
“There, between the trees.
See her big ears?”

We have a staring contest
She waits a long time to take
Her next bite of leaf

Deer rely on privacy, critical
For surviving in these dusky woods.
As soon as I see a tawny ear poke above the bushes
Like a redder leaf among the green
It is gone again
Camouflaged within the tapestry of leaves

While chipmunks cause a stir, bringing attention
To themselves, micro-divas with their fancy stripes
Noisily dancing
In the pine needles and undergrowth

All day
I sense the deer with a sense that is unnamed
Obscure in the dusk.


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