Encounter

Some say blessed, but in this translation: happy.
Happy are those who are unhappy
in every way imaginable

says the back of the hand
says the pale moon palm

*

In the corner of the thistle-field
a sheep caught in brambles
backs away as far as the bent arm
of the bush will allow.

I walk forward slowly. I only mean
to free her. I believe this.
This morning a deer startles at the faint sound
of my breath in the woods,

bolts away with the white tip
of the tail signalling across scrub.
And I’m overjoyed. I haven’t seen
the deer here for months,

I thought they’d abandoned me.
Happy are those who see a single deer
running through the forest after weeks
following their frozen tracks. But what blessing

is her springing back from absence, into air?
The whole earth leaps away
from the deer in flight

who hangs like a comma over ferny scrub.
The ground has limestone knees and it springs
away from stillness.

Let me tell you about the ewe and her
tense knot of legs, her wide eyes, coming unstuck
before the backswing of the heart
that brings us close
is struck

and how the thread
between us has shredded
into a thousand felted strands on bramble branches.

*

Before I was, before I became, I was running
and it seemed God must be the light I followed,
the silver thread. But then I saw it was only the light
from my torch, bouncing ahead on the trees.
I thought God might be beside me, but that
was a fox in the undergrowth, who paused
to watch as I ran past, and for a moment kept pace.
When he went I didn’t see him go. He wasn’t company.
Only two creatures, running alone in the darkness.
And then I hear the click of the hunter’s gun.

*

As I’m writing this it seems like I’m not lonely.
Some times I don’t know how to be alone.

Are there others, moving silently through the forest
ahead of Her, too quick to catch? Is God

springing through the trees to meet me,
holding the spray of thorns

from my back?

*

If nothing connects us in this universe

and the world is spread wide and nothing watches

then this space between us, woman, doe, and ewe,

can’t matter. And yet these fumbling decisions

where we’re each others beasts and burdens,

the call, the leap, the arching back, the song

when I reach out my hand and it’s not taken,

the road I don’t follow, the deer tracks long ignored,

somehow still happen and keep happening. We’re each

in air, and in landing, know the other.

*

17.12.18 at Tymawr