Frozen Fawn

Funny, by which I mean mysterious
or eerie, the way I just happened to look
out the western window of my shack
at exactly that moment the morning sun—
via the same opening in the heavy brush
I glanced through—made the carcass shine
unmistakably in the shape of what it was.

Still, I approached slowly, and arrived
to see it was entirely covered by frost,
the same hoarfrost that covers everything
today. For some reason, I remove
my glove before I touch it, my warm
fingertips melting away the death caul
and revealing the spots it still wears.

Born too late to survive this too early
week of unseasonable cold, it is curled
in the posture of sleep it must have assumed
last night. Next to it, the dark, unfrosted
spot where its mother would have lain,
and rose from in the first early light,
then walked away into the world, as she must.

Let me not, I think to myself, impose
my easy anthropomorphic bullshit upon you,
little one. Your mother, covered so late,
may have been the lucky one here,
what with cold and hunger everywhere
around and within her. And yet, I sit
where she lay last night for a long time,

and stroke all the frost from your body,
until you seem more alive, and more asleep,
than ever. It’s true, you are frozen to the ground,
and also true, the coyotes will find you soon,
at least, I confess, I hope they do. Otherwise,
I’ll have to lever you up with a shovel,
stuff you into a burlap sack or load you

in a wheelbarrow, and take you off somewhere
they will, somewhere where the coming thaw
will not afflict me with your decomposition.
It’s barely December. Winter, by the myth
of the human calendar, has yet to begin.
But for now, now that you’re dressed
and presented like a child in a coffin,

I’ll leave you here and look from my window
from time to time today and tomorrow,
and note, while the cold lasts, the restitching
of your frosty winding sheet around you
and probably hear, some coming night,
the coyotes set up their celebratory howls
at finding you, and feel, well, what, I wonder?

It would be another kind of anthropomorphic
bullshit to imagine your mother did not mourn
when she left you at first light. Let me be
as sad as she must have been, and let me go,
as she did, into the world again, bereaved
but also cold, and beginning to be a little
hungry, in search of what sustains us.

Robert Wrigley has published nine collections of poetry, the most recent of which is Anatomy of Melancholy (Penguin, 2013). His poems have appeared in many journals, including Poetry, The Atlantic, Barrow Street, and The New Yorker, and were included in the 2003 and 2006 editions of Best American Poetry. Wrigley’s honors and awards include fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Idaho State Commission on the Arts, and the Guggenheim Foundation, as well as the Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award, the J. Howard and Barbara M.J. Wood Prize, the Frederick Bock Prize from Poetry magazine, the Wagner Award from the Poetry Society of America, the Theodore Roethke Award from Poetry Northwest, and six Pushcart Prizes. From 1987 until 1988 he served as the state of Idaho’s writer-in-residence.