The Fox

Marine helicopters on maneuver kept dipping
toward swells at Black’s Beach, my board’s poise
giving way to freefall of my wave tubing

over me, nubs of wax under my feet as I crouched
under the lip, sped across the face and kicked out—
all over Southern Cal a haze settled: as if light breathed

that technicolor smog at sunset over
San Diego Harbor where battleships at anchor,
just back from patrolling the South China Sea, were

having rust scraped off and painted gray.
This was my inheritance that lay stretched before me:
which is when I felt the underbrush give way

and the fox that thrives in my brain,
not looking sly but just at home in his pelt
and subtle paws, broke from cover and ran

across the yard into the future to sniff my gravestone,
piss, and move on. And so I was reborn into
my long nose and ears, my coat’s red, white, and brown

giving off my fox smell lying heavy on the winds
in the years when I’d outsmart guns, poison,
dogs, and wire, when the rooster and his hens

clucked and ran, crazy with terror
at how everything goes still in that way a fox adores,
gliding through slow-motion drifts of feathers.

Originally published in House of Fact, House of Ruin (Graywolf Press, 2018). Copyright © 2018 by Thomas Sleigh. Used with the permission of the poet.