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.