Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Life under the Stars

A sorry young mule deer buck
We've taken to calling One Horn
(And even that one crooked)
Has adopted our house
As his last redoubt. He thieves
The bird seed, curls up under
The window, and will not scare.
We assume he's sick, maybe
Dying. The cold has come at last
With that transparent vengeance
Only high desert winter midnights
Can make so serenely spiteful,
Spitting stars, cracking the bones
Of the tall red rocks, not bitter,
Just merciless, like a killer
In a movie where the strangeness
Of the sociopath is his charm.
"It's a beautiful space to die,
Too bad it's killing you," I say
To the deer through the window
Before we skid down the slope
Into the quiet valley for a party
At the house of a friend struggling
Under the crushing rock slides
Of lonely alcoholism. The snow
Squeaks in protest against
Our tires, our boots, my crutches,
As if everything come in contact
Must be unbearable to the molecules
Of water and whatever fell with it.
Around the wood stove, grizzled
Men in flannel and various whiskers
Get grisly, muttering surgeries,
Joking about death. Hard to believe
This was the youth generation,
But as one sixty-something snorts,
"Age. It's happening, man." Another,
Boasts no fear of dying. A third
Disagrees.  "It's exactly dying
That scares me. It's not the death.
The arrival's the only easy part."
A fourth pats his large stomach,
And under a white beard chortles,
"I've been working on my arrival
For seventy-years." That gets
A small murmuring laugh.
The women stir and move
The conversation elsewhere.
By the time we squeak back out
Again to go home, our host
Is quietly, solemnly soused, his guests
Concerned, the deer is gone
From his nest by the wall, the cold
Even colder, the moon is up,
The snowy valley is a white sweep
Of uncountable phosphorescent
Diamonds deep basketed in night.
It's a beautiful space, too bad.

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