Death of a Yearling

by Marjorie Gowdy


Late October light, we spot him running the old chicken yard
young, muscles glimmering among poplar shadows
after soft green walnuts
nose down in rough grass beyond the spring creek
joy christening moss with golden sunset crystals.

Two dogs, one bred to chase
one little, old, cautious,
their ears turn.
The deer leaps forward, panics, races toward the fence, jumps,
and misses.

The gates half open
we stand ten yard-wands away.
As the sun passes over the west ridge,
the young deer sprints again toward the fence.
It rattles. He misses.

An odd sound, like a muffled bell.
Is it him? Silence. We walk toward a figure framed in leaves.
The big dog sniffs, runs home.
I look into almond eyes, his body untrembling,
turn to get help in the still shadow of an ancient cherry.

Minutes later, little dog sits at young deer's head,
sentinel for a creature of the wood. Almond eyes open, quickening,
then grow thick as his breath fades.
So fast, yes? Seconds before, achingly alive, in midst of youth's pirouette.
Then out of nowhere, the cold grip. A quelling. The hunter's moon shivers.

Marjorie Gowdy writes at home in the Blue Ridge mountains of Callaway, VA. Gowdy was Founding Executive Director of the Ohr-O'Keefe Museum of Art in Biloxi, MS. Her poetry has been published in the Roanoke Review, Artemis Journal, Floyd County Moonshine, Valley Voices, Indolent Books, Clinch River Review, and the book, Quilted Poems. Her essays are included in Katrina: Mississippi Women Remember. Her work is informed by the natural world of hills and coasts in Virginia and North Carolina. She is newsletter editor for the Poetry Society of Virginia.