(Photograph copyright 2010 by Dan Routh)
The deer skull
We hear them snorting in the woods
at night amidst the pine tree groves.
From time to time we see them graze
on fescue hay that’s meant for cows
but grows in fields that they call home.
They come and go in herds or pairs
or single bucks in search of does.
And usually we have a few
who stay with us from year to year.
One night when we were coming home
we saw a buck across the road
that stood as if he were a king
surveying all his open land.
We shined our lights and watched him match
our gaze with both his glowing eyes.
He had at least a dozen points
or more above his massive neck;
his veins and muscles stretched and bulged
to show that he was in the rut.
Behind him there were does and fawns
and younger bucks with lesser racks
that darted when we shined the light.
But he with amber-fearless eyes,
not lost within a mindless trance,
held strongly to his daunting pose
until we took our lights and left.
We’ve always let the deer roam free
without the threat hunters’ guns.
But poachers sometimes stop at night
along the road to spotlight deer
then aim to shoot towards our barn,
or even towards our house and cows,
because they’re drunk or simply bored.
And when they do, we spotlight them
with two or three bright beams of light
until they grab their guns and run
as if they are the hunted ones.
They get their kicks and power trips
from killing peaceful animals,
but none of them have ever stood
as steadfast as that burly buck.
(Poetry copyright 2010 by Devin Routh. Used with permission.)