Quartering

And then came the morning he was allowed to seek the deer,
Sure this time the secrets they held would be his as promised,
If only he could catch them and make them tell.

He sliced through the prairie grass, nose the prow of a red-furred ship, bellowing:
Come back! He understands! The man understands!

The deer were wise, and fled. But their way was to flee,
And he saw no wrong in giving chase, because that was his way.

But always when he caught them — and he caught them often now —
The knowing had passed, the eyes of liquid eternity gone to flat glass.

It took a dozen more chases before he understood the thunder.
The man had many things that made noise but did no harm.

But still he chased, though he saw now that the man didn’t understand:
Not the secrets of deer, nor the flight of ducks, not even the explosion of quail toward sky,
Though explosion was what uncoupled them from their speed and grace.

(2011)

This was another exercise poem: A poem about an animal. None of the suggested poems in the exercise got it jump-started, so I went looking for others. James Dickey’s “The Heaven of Animals” got me going.

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