for Ed

Just after sunset, passing a field where summer
Has burned the long grass so pale it blazes
In the glow of headlights, something catches
Your eye, branches where no tree should beó
No, antlers, dark and sharp against the fading
Red of the sky, antlers broad as outstretched arms
And crowning a stagís proud head. It turns
To watch you pass, and something glints
In the depths of its gaze, a wrongness reflected
Back to you that snags in your chest even before
This thing which is not a deer rises, stands
On crooked legs and races after you. Press
The pedal to the floor, tighten your grip
On the steering wheel, still the beast looms
Closer in the mirror, a nearer nightmare
Which even awake you canít elude, the road
In a curve that throws your shoulders
To the side, your eyes flicking to see, hopeful
And fearful at once because something chases
You that should be chased, brought down,
Drained of blood and skinned. Your knuckles
Stand out pale against your skin, your breath
Quick, like a hunted beastís, your eyes wide
As you learn what it means to be prey.
Antlers scrape metal, a dull screech
Like old anger, the car swerving across the white
Line for a heartbeat, but you pull it back
As the car crests a hill you donít remember
And the not-stag, one point of its antlers
Now broken, jagged, trots away as if he made
His point and needs follow you no more.
You finish the drive, but changed, your heart
More fragile in the cage of your ribs,
Your eyes still checking the mirrors, checking,
Checking once more for a threat
You fear youíll never leave behind.

Jennifer Crow

Jennifer Crow has not met one of the mysterious not-deer creatures in western New York Ė at least, not yet.
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