So here is the old buck


who all winter long


had traveled with the does


and yearlings, with the fawns


just past their spots,


and who had hung back,


walking where the others had walked,


eating what they had left,


and who had struck now and then


a pose against the wind,


against a twig-snap or the way


the light came slinking


among the trees.

Here is the mangled ear


and the twisted, hindering leg.


Here, already bearing him away


among the last drifts of snow


and the nightly hard freezes,


is a line of tiny ants,


making its way from the cave


of the right eye, over the steep


occipital ridge, across the moonscape, shed-horn


medallion and through the valley


of the ear's cloven shadow


to the ground,


where among the staves


of shed needles and the red earthy wine


they carry him


bit by gnawn bit


into another world.