I start every day (after coffee) by walking my dogs in a woodsy park near my house. The park is wedged between two well-traveled roads, and the noise of traffic can overwhelm the quieter sounds of small birds. Still, it’s a refuge for wildlife in the area, and I often see deer on my walks.
A poet friend who was also a pig farmer used to call deer “rats with hooves.” He was at war with them over certain crops he grew to supplement the pig income.
Deer have acclimated quite well to living in proximity to humans, well enough to be deemed a nuisance or worse by farmers, gardeners, and motorists. And, the deer have acclimated well enough to see us humans as harmless, or even as food dispensers. A mistake on both sides of the relationship, in my view.
This poem, originally published in Sweet Lit, was prompted by one of my morning walks. Click the play icon for an audio version.
Ones & ZeROES
The doe’s belly ripples, then a placental hoof or knee
pokes her skin from inside out. She watches me watch her,
browsing for a hand held out with treats, whatever’s tender
or nearby. Re-programmed for curiosity toward humans,
she’s unremembered fear. A new machine can write a terabyte
of data every day on five hundred trillion molecules
of DNA. That memory will last ten thousand years.
Soon, the deer may see my dog, who never catches them,
as one more harmless thing. Is that the sort of bit she passes
down to offspring? Her new fawn rests, wet and dazed, between
deep shade and sun. Such tender prey. Let the dogs run.