How do you find death?


Moments ago,

 a young buck, at the edge of flight, nervously paused.

Suddenly his gaze met mine.

And quickly, before his stare changed my mind,

I froze my breath and squeezed the trigger.

And in an instant, I took its life.


The collapse was quick.

A loud invasive retort shattered the quiet boreal sunrise.

In an instant the deer’s path ended.

I had winter meat secured.


Quietly, I approach the dead deer.

Though I am not new to this act of killing

I am shocked at how abruptly death pushes beauty aside.

The deer’s unblinking eye reflects my image as I kneel and 

rest my hand on its once strong neck and whisper a quiet apology

followed by a stronger-voiced thanks.


Overhead, the cadence of muffled, black wing beats

pull my gaze skyward up through the latticework of birch and spruce.

A raven twists in flight as only ravens can.

And for a moment the gaze of the hunter and scavenger meet.

Is this a deliverance of condolences on the raven’s wing beats?

Does the passing raven in its undertaker plumage, carry away the buck’s heartbeat?


Yet, it was the unfamiliar corvid call, not the lazy flight that gave me pause.

This was no perfunctory deep-throated croak.

Nor was it a liquid gurgle or rattling staccato.

The foreign call, easily heard, was a more tamed and measured outburst.

A funeral rite perhaps?

Or maybe your notes are simply a careful raven pronouncement of found-food?


Watching the bird fly out of sight, I asked the black bearded minstrel,

How do you find death?

So quickly?

I know you perch at the head of the avian class but

your brisk arrival begs astonishment.


Was it the explosive rifle that called you to breakfast on this chilly morning?

Did you scent the freshly dead on boreal updrafts?

Perhaps your keen vision picks up images unseen by my feeble-eyed genus?

That’s it; I’m sure.

You must have glimpsed the unbridled spirit of the deer as it bounded ethereally

into  the thickets of November clouds.


Patience black one. I’ll be gone shortly.

Let me unzip and release this deer’s furnace and heat.

These spilled hot, wet organs and globs of creamy fat will be your prizes.

The red heart and liver are mine and will fry nicely with big-yolked eggs.

You can perch alert, as I lean,

pulling my hefty prize towards a distant kitchen.

And finally, comforted that I am safely distant,

you can slip in and taste the promise of another tomorrow.


And if death remains distant for both of us,

it is likely I will return next November.

Called to this knob of spruce and birch, with the rifle cradled in my arm,

I will slowly climb into my spruce perch.

Here, I can turn my head hard left into a cold apricot sunrise

and wait for the whisper of deer steps.

 And with luck, I might know the privilege of

bearing witness of your odd, woeful lament.



-tom anderson  nov. 23, 2012

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