Two days of snow, then ice and the deer peer from the ragged curtain of trees. Hunger wills them, hunger pulls them to the compass of light spilling from the farmyard pole. They dip their heads, hold forked hooves above snow, turn furred ears to scoop from the wind the sounds of hounds, or men. They lap at a sprinkling of grain, pull timid mouthfuls from a stray bale. The smallest is lame, with a leg healed at angles, and a fused knob where a joint once bent. It picks, stiff, skidding its sickening limb across the ice's dark platter. Their fear is thick as they break a trail to the center of their predator's range. To know the winter is to ginger forth from a bed in the pines, to search for a scant meal gleaned from the carelessness of a killer.
A story: There was a cow in the road, struck by a semi-- half-moon of carcass and jutting legs, eyes already milky with dust and snow, rolled upward as if tired of this world tilted on its side. We drove through the pink light of the police cruiser, her broken flank blowing steam in the air. Minutes later, a deer sprang onto the road and we hit her, crushed her pelvis--the drama reversed, first consequence, then action--but the doe, not dead, pulled herself with front legs into the ditch. My father went to her, stunned her with a tire iron before cutting her throat, and today I think of the body of St. Francis in the Arizona desert, carved from wood and laid in his casket, lovingly dressed in red and white satin covered in petitions--medals, locks of hair, photos of infants, his head lifted and stroked, the grain of his brow kissed by the penitent. O wooden saint, dry body. I will not be like you, carapace. A chalky shell scooped of its life. I will leave less than this behind me.